Monday, October 29, 2012

My urban garden...where's SPRING?!

Well, I'm actually still alive everyone. So calm down.

Yes, the world has not brought me down just yet, almost, but not YET!

It has been such a busy time in recent months, and the amount of work that I used to put into my garden seems almost an impossible thing to repeat. I remember around this time last year, I had my summer crops in, and all I had to do was deal with my aphid (and DAMN white fly) problem.

I will admit, I have cheated this year. Last year, I ordered lacewings, used pest oil and garlic sprays to deal with the aphids. It seemed to have worked, as the beneficial insects took care of the aphids in the rose beds. I however, lost the whitefly battle through high summer as the population exploded amongst my beans and tomatoes. The impact on some of the beans was horrific.

I am not going through such effort this year to be beaten by those damn white flies again. As we've had a what seems to be a very cool October in Melbourne, the infestation has not been so severe (yet), so I decided I'd try out pyrethrum sprays, a botanical poison for insects and aquatic animals (and cats apparently). Luckily, I don't have aquatic animals or cats. The active ingredient is non selective and will kill all insects, good and bad. Not ideal, but let's call this an integrated approach to gardening...without using the systemic and synthetic poisons.

I've decided I will need to get the pest population under control early on so that it is not too late before they become uncontrollable. The plan is to spray for a few weeks and then introduce beneficials as the weather warms up to sustain them, to maintain balance in the garden.

So, yes blog buddies, I've cheated this year.

But other than that...this is what has been happening in my urban garden..N/NE of Melbourne.

 Purple podded peas - Angela's blue from memory. A beautifully deep purple pod with lime, almost fluorescent green. I swore I'd never grow peas again...but this may have changed my mind.

Staggered harvests of some rainbow carrots - from purple dragon, solar yellow and lunar white carrots. Funnily, I don't actually have orange carrots.

As far as the eye can see - my strawberry plants from seed (and some more mature white alpines fruiting away). Alexandria, Reine de valles, Mignonette, Yellow Wonder, Pineapple crush and Musk Berries (soon to be transplanted!).

Of course, what would Summer be without these? My tomato seedlings, smaller than hoped but they'll be fine. Tommy toe, Yellow pear, Red fig, Aunty Ruby's Green, Maldovan Green, Hillbilly, Stupice, Rouge de Marmande and my two hopes of this season - Red Brandywine and Pink Brandywine. The Brandywine are meant to be the best of all tomatoes.

Some horseradish with lettuce and beetroots. My beetroots did not get very large...and I don't know why.

I aim trying to be as productive as possible with the land that I do have, so in went a Jiro Persimmon, and a White Shahtoot Mulberry.

And I have to end with this - a random potato plant in the back of the garden in some abandoned soil through deep winter produced that crop of potatoes. Not bad for absolute neglect. 

My urban garden

Monday, September 3, 2012

My urban garden...Spring.


My coriander bounty.

Chiogga beetroot

Field of garlic.

Mizuna in bloom.

 Purple broccoli

Wasabi japonica

 4 varieties of wild alpine strawberries.

 Last year's propagated alpine strawberries, ruegan cultivar.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My urban garden...within Spring's grasp.

The days are getting longer and the glacial mornings less frequent. Deep winter has not been as pleasant as I thought. It is always nicer by imagination, by a wood fire, waking up mid morning, with a cup of chai and flicking through my cookery, pastry and garden books. To head to the market, find some interesting things to cook and spend a leisurely day contemplating Nietzsche (I'm kidding people...about the Nietzsche part the rest is FACT). But in all seriousness, to me, winter has almost always been a time for relaxation, to go on short trip, to recharge. 

But no, this winter has been filled with 5.30am alarms, long drives and long(ish) days. So it is so so nice to glimpse the Spring ahead, to see some sunshine, and to see the azure blue sky once more. To only have it so swiftly snatched with a series of wet, cold, miserable days. A glimmer is nevertheless a glimmer.

Despite the damp, cold and miserable weekends, I've tried to get into the garden as often as possible over the last few weeks, because what I do now will hopefully pay off in coming months. You know the old adage, you reap what you sow? I've been taking it in the literal sense. Next level interpretation.

As I was clearing the garden beds, I couldn't help but harvest some of my rhubarb. I know I probably shouldn't have done so whilst they are still in hibernation....but I really couldn't help myself. It's worse because they're only 1yo's. I'll just apologise with a bag full of compost or something (they were certainly delicious).

The tomato and pepper season is also starting but I may have transplanted my tomatoes in haste, so some did not survive. I will need to revisit my seeds and start them from scratch and give them some more time before I transplant them again. Or maybe just do a better job at transplanting them. One or the other

Remember the wild alpine strawberries that I had started 12 months ago? I've managed to get around 50 plants from the seeds that I had propagated. Probably more if I had taken more care of them during the year. I put a few, haphazardly, in a shady garden bed as an after thought last year as I had a few extras and lo, they did unbelievably well. Their resilience over our cold winter is remarkable as I certainly did not expect them to fruit in July or August. I can't wait to see what they offer up during the Spring flush.

You may wonder what my obsession with these tiny tiny strawberries are, let me say one thing. I am no fan of strawberries in general. But wild alpine strawberries, are nothing, I repeat, nothing, like what you buy in the shops. Nothing just to be sure. Their intensity in flavour is infinitely superior to any other strawberry you'll buy or grow. It is just bizarre they're not grown more, because they are relatively easy to maintain once established. Starting them from seed however can be a challenge. I nevertheless got 4 additional varieties (Yellow Wonder, Reines de valles, Mignonette, and Alexandria) in seed, so I'm certainly excited to see what this year brings.

Anyway, with that, I leave you with the first blooms of the garden, another hint that Spring is only moments away.

My urban garden.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gumbo Kitchen

Yes, another food truck.

Yes, I eat from food trucks more than I eat sit down dinners, but I have no shame people!

I was on my way home from work and I spotted the Gumbo Truck on High St in Northcote outside Kitty Somerset so I thought I'd do a u-turn and get myself one of these prawn things.

Overall impressions? I like it. But best eaten when you're hungry hungry hungry!!

 Crunchy, spicy, tangy.

I should probably try a gumbo...from a gumbo kitchen..I suppose. Maybe next time.

Don't know. Somewhere in Northcote and surrounds?

Gumbo Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 16, 2012

It has been so long.

Well, you can stay calm and have a coffee. I am not dead.

It has however, been so long. I don't know why I haven't written anything for this space. I often think that I should. To put my thoughts and opinions down. To temper them. To put them into perspective. First world problems my friends, first world problems. I sometimes do have to remind myself of that. To just pull myself from my own pity party and just have a bit of reality check. Yes, this year was meant to be the year where I find a steady state. To let things "be". But it turned out to be a year that I've needed to be reboot. And reboot. And reboot. I mean, FFS. Have you had one of those weeks, months or years?

As I write this I am conscious of the fact that I need to probably get up at 5.30am tomorrow - to make it to work. Conscious that I spent the whole of the last 12 months thinking that this would be when I would be on my holiday. Maybe a bucket list item. Or maybe just to say hello to the Southern ocean once more. Well, that's not how things have turned out.

Stability is still a distant destination.

But for now, I just want to refocus on the things that have served me well, to eat and live well. Whatever that means.

 A few months ago, I started a new garlic bed. In went 250 garlic cloves, some wombok, cabbages and bokchoy. All are seemingly doing fairly well. I also have coriander to see me through the winter, mizuna, peas and hopefully beets will see me through to spring.

I have started to germinate my tomatoes, ready for a Summer that seems so far away. I finally got some Brandywine tomato seeds as I was unable to source any plants last year. I bought some horseradish from the farmer's market last week and I don't know if they'll do well, but I am starting to find comfort in my urban garden once more.I plan on increasing the depth of one of my garden beds so I can grow more root vegetables.

Yes, it is nice to focus on things that seem to work at a different speed to society.

Here is a photo which I took of one of my vietnamese mint bushes in the garden a while ago. To this day, it is still in bloom. I've eaten this herb all my life...and I've never seen it flower.

I will add more pictures in coming days of my urban garden.

My urban garden.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chez Dre

After all the hype about this place, I had to visit. Given I have been visiting South Melbourne a bit over the last few months, you know to do stuff. Like drink coffee. So it was only reasonable that I also visit Chez Dre.

At the rear of some building on Coventry St it is well hidden yet well signed (does that even make sense?). So you can't miss it...not really. It has "patisserie" and "boulangerie" on its sign. Isn't boulangerie a sexy word? Seriously...say it with me...boulangerie.

Anyway, I digress. It is a fairly open space, with an open kitchen. Although the kitchen seems more of a cafe kitchen than a pastry kitchen...or a bakery for that matter. Anyway, walk through, and you will see a cabinet with some petit gateauxs, choux pastries, tarts and the like. Indeed, they do look very glamorous. 

So what did I try?

1. Lemon Meringue Pie.
2. Passionfruit Tart.
3. Vanilla eclair.

Summary in a word? OK.

The lemon meringue pie was a little disappointing. There was something about the lemon curd that I couldn't quite put my finger just wasn't as zingy as I'd expect a lemon curd to be. Trust me, I make a lot of curd and this was a bit odd. Possibly the use of lemon puree which isn't a good idea for curds and custards really...but I could be totally totally wrong.

The passionfruit tart however, was delicious. Ultra smooth curd with a great cocoa tart base. What more can I say? A classic passionfruit tart.

The eclair was also ok. The creme patissiere filling was smooth, as was the whipped vanilla cream. But lets face it boys and girls, it's an eclair...for $8.50. A bit rich, but ok I get was an eclair with like a sable or "croustilliant" covering which is more work...but $8.50 for an eclair. I'm not stingy, but I just can't get over that it's just an eclair people.

So visit if you're nearby as in all fairness, I haven't tried their coffees or their food. Just their pastries.

rear 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stuff..with chocolate and coffee and more stuff

Shit, it's been a long time. I can offer nothing but excuses for neglecting this space of mine.

This post has been sitting in draft for months, so I figured I better delete it or post it. It has been so long since I've posted about coffee. My love of coffee is on the cusp of obsessive. I know it, you know it, we all know it - so let's not hide it like a dirty secret. So indeed, I have no shame here.

So I just wanted to dot point a few of the cafe's I routinely drink at, and some not so routinely just because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. 

Brunswick East Project

I'd have to start off with my absolute favourite place The Brunswick East Project. Yes, it says "No Hawkers or Bloggers" on the door. But I love this place, so I'm living dangerously. All for you dear friends. The friendliest cafe staff, the best advice and definitely some of the best coffee being delivered.

After many many coffees, I have to say TBEP does the most consistent coffee around. Did I also say consistently GREAT coffee on their two slayers? Yes. They also do an amazing cold drip. One of the best imho.
Brunswick East Project on Urbanspoon

Wide Open Road
A neat little cafe in Barkly St in Brunswick, really limited seating, but when the sun is out, and the weather is fine, it is so nice to sit outside and just enjoy life (even if the view is Safeway). Currently being renovated or something, but their coffee just as good as any.

Wide Open Road on Urbanspoon

L'atelier by Monsier Truffe
Ok, this isn't really a "coffee" place, rather it is more a "chocolate place". But how could I not mention this place? They conch their own freaken chocolate. Who does that? Well, not many I tell you. Not many. That's what you call dedication. I mean, I won't lie, I wouldn't be able to tell you whether or not their single origin Madagascan is better than Valhrona's single origin madagascan, but points just for being different! Their hot choc is seriously, the only hot chocolate you should be drinking. The darkest only. 
L'atelier by Monsieur Truffe on Urbanspoon

Seven Seeds
I suppose because they're the same group of peeps that I've grouped them. Seven seeds is famous for their specialty coffee and damn have I had some amazing coffee here - namely their filters and cold drips. I've had some brilliant geisha coffees here. I love this place if I can be bothered traveling that extra 5 minutes, and also if I'm willing to battle the legions of other fans. It is that busy.
Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

I like BBB. I really do. But I have to admit, it is better when certain staff are pulling the shots. I know, big call, but I do like BBB. I used to walk 10mins from the office to get a coffee. But it's true,  it's better when the shots come from certain staff.
Brother Baba Budan on Urbanspoon

Manchester Press
No doubt, this place is super cool. Hidden in a laneway, a haven within the city grid. The food is simple, honest and pretty delicious. The decor is brillaint - I mean, how could you not like POISON bottles being used as vases? And of course, their intricate etched latte art draws the "wows" and "omgs". But I'm going to go out on a limb and say it...their coffee can be really hit and REALLY hit and miss. It's nice early morning, when it's quieter. It's nice to sit and enjoy the space, but if you really need a shot to save your life, look into BBB and see who's behind the machine.
Manchester Press on Urbanspoon

Dead Man Espresso
I love the name. I love the space. I love their coffee.
That is all. Oh, did I mention I love the space? An almost balcony effect with their elevated seating, on a warm summery day with a delicious pour over will bring a bit of happiness in your life. Trust me.
Dead Man Espresso on Urbanspoon

Proud Mary
I have to admit, I went to Proud Mary just to check what all the hype was about. Yes, I'm sure "bloggers" like myself, add to the hype, but I had to. Seriously, if their coffee is THAT good right? I mean, they have a Yama cold drip sitting in the middle of their communal table. Surely, their cold drip would be amazing to have such an instrument for all to see? was ok.

The food was also ok. That's right, it was just ok, but maybe it's me?
Proud Mary on Urbanspoon

Three Bags Full

To me, Three Bags Full and Proud Mary are very similar. Perhaps, it's their location? You know, sort of middle of no-where-backstreets of inner-city suburban cafe. But I like Three Bags Full. I don't know what it is. I like it. Food was great, piccolo was great. What else could I ask for?
Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon

St Ali
Well, how could a post be about coffee without St Ali? Prior to this year, it had been years, YEARS since my last visit to this South Melbourne cafe. I mentioned to a friend that we went well before it exploded and became this empire. Well before it became so damn busy. When it was possible to be the only people in the cafe. It was that long ago, when I was still able to bitch about how much I hated uni. I know. That was before reality.

I must admit, I had lowered my expectations of this place. As places become "gastrotemples / coffee meccas", they lose their charm. They just become big. You know. But I was wrong. I really really liked it. Sure their cold drip was ok. But it was their syphon. A syphon of the Panama Don Pachi Geisha was stratospherically good. Sure it was $12, but it was one of the best 'filters' I've had to date.
St Ali on Urbanspoon


There are so many cafes in Melbourne and it is so clear that it's the "food" component that really creates an insane amount of hype around a "coffee house / cafe". But I'm more often than not, left a bit disappointed with their coffees, namely espresso based.

Places whose primary and sometimes, only focus has always been coffee seems to always deliver. For now, I'm playing with my new coffee gadgets.