Mr Wednesday – ok any day of the week

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You have to love it when a place opens up within fixie-riding distance from your house. Even if you drive the Volvo to get there. Hello Mr Wednesday. Welcome to the ‘hood.

   
Located on Wingrove St in Fairfield, it’s a stone’s throw from the local primary school and thanks to coffee from Industry Beans, is destined to become a favourite with the mums after drop-off. Their magic is bloody magnificent.

   
 

With a fit out that touches on all the latest trends – think copper panels, terrariums, funky light bulbs and quirkily-named potted succulents, Mr Wednesday nevertheless manages to create its own vibe and the staff are lovely, friendly and welcoming.

   
    
   
Our first visit saw us succumb helplessly to the charms of the Jamaican Jerk Chicken burger with plaintain chips, and the Pulled Pork burger with coleslaw and pineapple. At 10.30 in the morning. Oops. Glad we did, they were friggin’ awesome. Get on them any time of the day.

   
 On the second visit we paid tribute to the breakfast part of the menu, and if you like your smashed avo huge, with chèvre and peas and spinach,  then you’ll be one happy camper.

  
Similarly, bring your appetite for the vanilla and chai porridge with caramelised nut crumble, cranberries, blueberries, honey and apple, served with flowers, which arrives on a blackboard picture frame with fresh cream in a science beaker. Not only is it a generous serve, but your need to Instagram will be working overtime with the cuteness of it all.

  

There are many more treats to tempt you on the front counter, my advice is just go with it. Have breakfast dessert or take something home with you for later. So worth it. 

   
 

  

 If you’re in the area, get here. Oh, and there’s an Indian motorbike hanging on the wall for no apparent reason. Which I totally dig.

  
Mr Wednesday, you’re ok whatever day it is.

Mr Wednesday

144 Wingrove St, Fairfield

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5 years of blogging

  
Today my blog turns 5 years old. On this day in 2010 we set off for Italy and what started as a travel journal turned into a public obsession with discovering and sharing new food and wine adventures.  
I could never have anticipated the amazing experiences I would be lucky enough to have, and the incredible people I would meet over the last 5 years.
Chefs and farmers, producers, pasta makers, sommeliers, winemakers , restauranteurs/cafe owners, TV food show contestants, regional tourism peeps, PR mavens, stylists, photographers, and fellow bloggers. So many of these talented legends I’m stoked to call friends and I remain an admirer and supporter of all they continue to do and achieve. 
 Viva la food porn. Long may it continue. Cos for every person sick of food photos there’s 10 others who will double tap that shit. Including me. 

  

Lady Carolina set to open in August

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Ahead of Lady Carolina’s much anticipated launch in August, Paul Wilson has snared pit masters and Peruvian enthusiasts Blair Williams (Piqueos and Bluebonnet BBQ) and former employee Cameron Dening (Circa and Acland St Cantina) to bring flair and excitement to the kitchen, and bolster the 160-seater Latin restaurant and bar.

Lady Carolina co-founder Alby Tomassi says, “With the calibre of the entire Lady Carolina team, under the
direction of Paul Wilson, guests can experience a celebration of culture, music, food and beverage from
all corners of Latin and Central America. With two very distinct offerings, customers will find themselves
exploring the Paladar Dining Room and relaxing in the Carolina Back Bar that will showcase the best Latin street food in Melbourne.”

The Lady Carolina indoor menu will allow diners to feast on the dedicated cevicheria, which will explore the depth of Latin cuisine, while highlighting cultural fusions of Peru through Chifa and Nikkei blends. The outdoor bar will showcase creative street foods with vibrant dishes including alpaca burgers with sweet potato slaw and Amarillo and criolla salsas.

The team is also introducing new superfood desserts, including the incaberry cacao crunch. Paul Wilson adds: “Incaberries are a powerful superfood packed with protein and antioxidants, offering a healthy dessert with a twist. Serving healthy superfoods is something that is very important to the Lady Carolina ethos; we are bringing healthy ingredients and Australian produce, which is also native to South America, to the forefront of the menu and demonstrating how diverse we can be with authentic foods.” Other new fun desserts include palettes – Mexican ice lollies made with Australian tropical fruits, including Jackfruit mojito flavour.

The exciting beverage offering includes an indoor pisco bar and an outdoor rum bar, serving up delicious cocktails on tap. The Carolina Back Bar will be transformed into a major Latin street food destination, bringing the grittiness of South America to East Brunswick.

Blair Williams

Hailing from New Zealand, Blair moved to Australia to pursue his passion for all things edible. Blair’s love for South American cuisine began at Piqueos, a Peruvian and Argentinian gem where he was head chef. Developing a love for all things meaty and delicious, Blair also went on to open northside favourite Bluebonnet BBQ with a string of pop-ups around Melbourne’s northern suburbs and has recently been head chef at Longhorn Saloon.

Cameron Dening

Cameron Dening, has trained with some of Brisbane’s hardest taskmasters at hatted restaurants Isis Brasserie, Bar Alto and Ortiga. When Cameron headed to Melbourne, he spent time at the two-hatted St Kilda icon, Circa. Cameron’s relationship with Paul Wilson flourished and he furthered his knowledge and love for regional Mexican food at the helm of Acland St Cantina. The next step in his food odyssey is to explore even more Latin American food with Lady Carolina.

Lady Carolina
August 2015
175 – 177 Lygon Street North, Brunswick East

www.ladycarolina.com.au

Information provided by Zilla and Brook PR

The perfect Valentine’s Day gift for the foodie in your life : Connoisseur Club Promotion

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Thought about a Valentine’s Day gift yet?

Here’s what $99 will get you:

A dozen long stemmed roses, which will last maybe a week.

A gift certificate for a day spa, which will last maybe an hour.

A bottle of vintage Veuve Clicquot, which will last maybe 30 minutes.

OR

You could spend $99 on a (specially discounted) Silver membership to the Connoisseur Club and get 12 months of unlimited discounts and special offers from restaurants and pubs all over Australia, not to mention great discounts on cases of wine, tours and trips, classes and courses, adventure activities from Adrenalin (hot air ballooning or racetrack drive days, anyone?), boutique accommodation, day spas, golf courses, and tourist attractions.

No kidding.

I’ve teamed up with Andrew Stuart (we met and bonded over a really good bottle of wine), who is not only a great bloke but also the Managing Director of the Connoisseur Club, which has been going for 30 years.

The Entertainment book it ain’t – no tacky vouchers and restaurant staff rolling their eyes when you whip that plastic card out on Monday – Thursday, this is a membership that lets you keep going back to the same restaurant time after time, whenever you like, and you keep getting a discount (like 1 main meal for free when one other main is purchased), EVERY SINGLE TIME.

With over 20,000 members, you’ll be in good company. The best kind of company. The kind that saves a shedload of cash whilst supporting their favourite venues, wineries, activities and attractions, and helps people discover new places to eat,drink and visit.

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Coombe Farm Wines Celllar Door (above) is just one of the places that you can visit and use your Connoisseur Club card at.

My Valentine’s day gift to all my food lovers is a 50% discount off the normal rate of $198.

Check out the site here, to get the full list of benefits and offers. You can’t search the venues themselves without being a member, but here’s a sneak peak of some of the participating venues Melbourne , Sydney & Queensland, with a host of new venues being signed up in 2015

Bistrot d’Orsay
Syracuse
Olivigna
Terre – Mornington Peninsula (ex Royal Mail)
Levantine Hill Estate (soon to be home to Ezard)

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NSW – All Hat winners
Ormeggio
Pilu at Freshwater
Bathers Pavilion
Otto
Catalina

QLD
Vanitas – Palazzo Vesace
Salt Grill – Luke Mangan

 

Simply go HERE and enter the promotional code: gastronomel to get your card (specify the name of your recipient on the card but put your address if it’s a gift) and the good folk at the Connoisseur Club will despatch your membership pack within 24 hours.

Cutoff date for orders is Tuesday 10th February so get on it!

Bon appétit, lovers!

Breakfast at Jimmi Jamz East Brunswick

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I first met Alby Tomassi at YGAP’s social enterprise café Feast of Merit, in March last year.

With a huge smile, boundless enthusiasm, and a solid pedigree in hospitality (he also owns St Kilda institution The Banff) Alby is all about bringing good, unfussy food to the table and Jimmi Jamz is no exception.

The Lygon Street space is big enough to not have to worry about queuing for a table on a Saturday morning, but still warm and inviting with exposed brickwork, planter boxes full of fresh herbs, comfortable leather banquette seats, and a large airy courtyard which is lovely for brunch and possibly even better for a lazy Sunday afternoon session, or a warm summer evening.

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With the feasting of the festive season over, I’m ready for some food that nourishes whilst still tasting fantastic. Based on what I tried recently at Jimmi Jamz, I’m covered for the rest of summer. The menu boasts something to appeal to everyone from the Istra bacon lover to the gluten free vegan, and everyone in between.

Offering a fresh take on standard breakfasts, at Jimmy Jamz you can get ricotta hotcakes with fro-yo, meringue and mint; almond and cashew granola with coconut yoghurt, blueberry curd and grapefruit; baked eggs with pork belly; and silken chilli tofu with roasted red onions, puffed rice and black sesame oil. I’m not usually a tofu fan, but I found this dish really lovely – so many flavours and textures, and it just screamed healthy!

I loved the ‘Rye Gap’, which was house cured trout, avocado puree, pickled red onion, soft herb salad with preserved lemon dressing and a poached egg (extra) on rye.

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Jimmi Jamz have their own coffee brand which they’ve called ‘Little Green Bean’, (roasted in Brunswick), their milk comes from St David Dairy (hand bottled in Fitzroy), and a huge selection of freshly squeezed juices and delicious-sounding smoothies. I went with the ‘Green Apple’ which was chock full of spirulina, psyllium husk, organic coconut, almond, sultana, cranberry, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, organic lime essential oil, coconut nectar, green apple, coconut water, fresh mint and ice. Loved it.

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You can view the whole menu here

Add to this the fact that they also have a stack of board and card games including Jenga, Battleships, Scrabble, Backgammon and Chess, you could quite literally settle in here for hours (with or without kids.)

I’m now looking forward to going back for lunch or dinner to check out the rest of the menu!

*I was invited to Jimmi Jamz to try the summer menu. I wrote about it because I loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smoke and mirrors – a food styling masterclass with Denise Vivaldo

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As a food blogger, trying to make food look good is what you do. Setting a scene. Changing angles. Rearranging or moving a plate to get the best light. Making sure your husband/girlfriend’s mobile phone/keys/hand are not in the shot. Using a shed-load of Instagram filters to make things appear even more amazing.  Then you meet a food stylist. And that takes things to a WHOLE.OTHER.LEVEL.

I was invited by Kirsty Bryson, a Melbourne/Sydney food stylist,  to participate in a food styling masterclass being run by the GODMOTHER of Food Styling, US-based Denise Vivaldo, author of  ‘The Food Stylist’s Handbook’ which is literally the bible for any budding stylist wanting to know everything from how to keep food looking appealing after hours under hot lights, to how to shoot cereal in a bowl without it going soggy (PVC glue apparently)

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I arrived in Sydney with only a brief outline of the course, and what ensued was 2 full days of laughter, enjoyment and enlightenment, with a room full of gifted, enthusiastic participants,  all as eager to learn as I was, and from all different backgrounds, including fashion and TV set stylists, bloggers, chefs, photographers, a cafe owner, and other food stylists wanting to add even more to their bag of tricks.

Denise Vivaldo is HILARIOUS. She has been in the food business in one way or another for about 30 years, is based in LA, and is full of energy, enthusiasm and juicy celebrity anecdotes from a career that has seen her cater for more than 10,000 parties and cook meals for everyone from George W Bush and Prince Charles to Bette Midler and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Originally trained as a chef, Denise Vivaldo opened a catering company in the 80’s and quickly built a reputation which gained her repeat business from high-profile clients all over Los Angeles. She started working with Aaron Spelling after catering for a Hollywood studio executive’s party where Spelling was a guest.  He loved what she had done with the food styling of the event and immediately asked her to work with him on Dynasty, and then his other TV shows including Melrose Place.

Since then Denise has styled countless TV sets all over America and beyond, appeared on numerous cooking shows, written half a dozen books, contributed articles to the Huffington Post, as well as assisting celebrities in developing recipes and styling their cookbooks.

For our masterclass she shared her insights from 30 years in the business, and revealed secrets that had me laughing in shock, as I realised I had taken for granted so many things in print and on TV. For example, an egg yolk in a picture of bacon and eggs is likely to be raw, with the white cooked separately, and hole cut out for the raw yolk to be dropped in. Who knew? Ha. That was only the start.

Icecream? No. It’s Crisco (Frymaster here) whipped up with icing sugar and then roughed up with a wooden skewer to look like a scoop. No melting under the camera, no drips, no mess and you can make it in as many colours as you like with food dye. Handy for that movie scene which has to be re-shot 15 times.

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Think that chicken is roasted? Think again. Try a raw chicken sprayed with browning essence, a shake of paprika and liberal application of a blow torch to tighten the skin.

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This appetising and carefully-crafted sandwich is filled at the front with real food and stuffed at the back with cotton wool balls to create height and depth for the photo, and toothpicks hold it all together.

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This is a bowl of canned minestrone soup, demonstrating the importance of props – with the right combination of napery, breadstick and crockery,and some beautiful natural light, it doesn’t look terrible.

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We also conducted an exercise in reassembling the contents of a box of Lean Cuisine to make it actually look like it does on the packaging. Anyone who at one time has eaten one of these sad looking meals would know it doesn’t usually. We actually rinsed off some of the sauce after separating all the individual components and reassembled it with some tweezers (a stylist’s best friend apparently, the tweezers).

IMG_0961There’s a lot to be said for the selection of the right colour of crockery when plating up a dish for maximum impact – you can see how the simple garnish of lime peel is set off beautifully by a green plate. This is a just frozen supermarket brand cheesecake and I used a scone cutter to make into an individual circular serve instead of the usual wedge.
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To see exactly what went down, check out this fantastic video by Dave Katague here .

Thanks to Kirsty and Denise for having me along, it was definitely a highlight of 2014, and I’ve certainly started looking at food advertisements in a whole new way now!
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Behind the Hedge – Coombe Farm in the Yarra Valley

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For as long as I can remember, I have been a regular visitor to the Yarra Valley, and recall my father telling me as a young girl that the huge gates on the bend just past Coldstream were the entrance to the estate of Dame Nellie Melba, whom I knew to be a great opera singer.

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If you have, like me, ever wondered what lies ‘behind the hedge’ , the news is good.

Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful and perfectly restored, it is also now open for the public to enjoy, and not just as an historical homage. Coombe Farm is styling itself as an artistic hub, which will play host to thousands of visitors every year, as people stream through the gates to explore the gardens on guided tours, as well as to weddings, corporate events and opera performances as part of the Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust. They will also, like me return for the wine, as Coombe Farm Wine Cellar door is also located here.

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Dame Nellie Melba was in her day one of the most famous women in the world, the first woman to ever grace the cover of Time Magazine, and counted amongst her friends Charlie Chaplin, (who apparently swam in her pool at Coombe Farm) movie idol Douglas Fairbanks, and members of the Royal family. She lived a lavish, flamboyant life of concerts,  travelling the globe with her monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage and custom-made Cartier jewellery, and was celebrated all over the world for her magnificent voice. She was also lauded for her unending support for charity, as well as nurturing the talent of budding artists, including Arthur Streeton who would, with her patronage go on to be one of our most celebrated painters.  Apparently Dame Nellie also had a wicked sense of humour, and had a bit of the Aussie larrikin in her. Quite frankly she sounds like someone I would have loved to share a glass bottle of wine with.  Take a tour of the grounds and gardens and your guide will regale you with all manner of lovely anecdotes and snippets about this national treasure. They’re all in love with the history of her and are full of enthusiasm for sharing her legacy with as many people as possible.

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The beautiful Providore stocks gardening wares, handcrafted pieces from independent artists, and specially-commissioned Melba memorabilia including monogrammed teatowels, crockery etc, as well as  the stunning biography written by Melba’s beloved granddaughter, Pamela, Lady  Vestey which is on my Christmas list this year.

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The gardens were originally designed by Guilfoyle (he of the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne fame) and at every turn you are rewarded with stunning views over different parts of the Yarra Valley.

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The oldest (functional) swimming pool in Australia where Charlie Chaplin swam


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The gorgeous morsels served as part of brunch, using local and homegrown ingredients, included the award-winning Coombe Farm Wines’ Dame Nellie Melba Blanc de Blanc, fresh baked scones with Peach Melba jam, truffles, lemon meringue tartlet, Coombe Farm pate with Melba toast, and pork and apple sausage rolls.

 IMG_4019 IMG_4022 IMG_4023 IMG_4024 IMG_4026The restaurant is open, and serving seasonal and largely estate grown produce, for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea 7 days a week. They will also be open for dinner on weekends during peak holiday periods as well as for special events.



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View the current menu here

Bookings for Garden Tours are essential. The cost is $25 and includes morning or afternoon tea and I am looking for volunteers to come with me so I can do it all over again (and again)

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Sincere thanks to Coombe Farm and Two Hands Agency for having me along to discover what’s #behindthehedge

Visit Coombe Farm’s beautiful website here for more information: http://coombeyarravalley.com.au/site/

All the Bubbles! La Dolce Vita Festival November 15-16, 2014.

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If this picture is making you thirsty, there are number of fantastic ways to get your bubbles on, Italian Style, at the annual Dolce Vita Festival in the King Valley, November 14-16.

Brown Brothers is celebrating 125 years of wine making at their 28th annual Spring Wine & Food Festival Opening Dinner, where you can dine with members of the Brown family at Patricia’s Table restaurant in the Epicurean Centre at  Milawa.

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This exclusive members-only event features a delectable four course meal with matched wines created by  award winning Head Chef Douglas Elder.
Over the weekend you can also experience some fantastic wine and food matching at Patricia & Co Pop-Up Wine and Food Bar, visit Epicurean Express for mouth-watering dishes direct from the delicious kitchen, or simply grab a picnic basket and get comfortable on the lawns listening to some wonderful live acoustic music. You’ll also be one of the first to get the chance to take a peek inside the beautiful, newly restored historic barn, the place where the King Valley wine adventure started. Drop in, relax, explore!

Dal Zotto Wines in Whitfield are celebrating their 10th Anniversary of producing Australia’s first Prosecco at their Primavera del Prosecco event this year.

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New release wines include 2014 Arneis, 2014 Riesling, 2014 Vintage Pucino and N.V. Pucino Prosecco. They are also very excited to announce the return of the ever popular Barbera Frizzante and an exciting new variety to the Dal Zotto range – the 2014 Garganega.

The Prosecco Cocktail Bar will be open again from 11 am until 8pm on Saturday and 10 am – 5 pm on Sunday, and for the kids, clown fun, with  2 x jumping castles (for big and little kids), face painting and craft activities.

“Wine Flights” will be served with food matches in the Trattoria by the winemaker and Dal Zotto family and team.

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House made Pizza, kids meals, delicious spring produce, together with famous Gelato Messina treats are only a few of the food options on offer, there will be music by local artists Tom Kline, Paul William Ray & Band and you can groove away the night with DJ Emlyn Andres at the  “Prosecco Nights” event (Sat 4pm-8pm)  where they will be crowning the King and Queen of Prosecco – and you can be assured I’ll be back defending my title as Prosecco Queen!

After 5pm on Saturday, enjoy Otto Dal Zotto’s now famous Tuscan Pork Roll – succulent spit roasted pork (that’s Eric below from the Trattoria doing a test run a few weeks ago), lovingly cooked all day and served up on house made bread rolls with Italian slaw….Bellisimo!IMG_1630

 

Pizzini Wines

 

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Every year Pizzini put on their ‘Gnocchi Carnevale’ as part of La Dolce Vita Festival. Along with Katrina Pizzini’s famous homemade gnocchi, there will be pork belly, Zatar crusted BBQ salmon, roast pumpkin and caramelised onion cannelloni, as well as a huge array of amazing desserts, and kids get to try Nonna’s bolognaise. There’s also an ice cream bar, market stalls, music, giant sandpit and art space for the kids as well as kite making, and roving entertainers teaching the kids circus art like hooping, enthralling with balloon art, face painting and magical tricks. All this means you will be free to sit and enjoy the sunshine, and all the wine. There’s also the annual gnocchi rolling and wine spitting competitions,

Fred Pizzini has grown over 275 kilograms of Dutch Cream potatoes especially for the gnocchi. It would be rude not to help them eat it.

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Just 5 minutes down the road you’ll find Politini Wines and Chrismont Wines, in Cheshunt.

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(image from Visit Victoria)

 

This year Politini are serving up a sensational southern Italian feast of seafood with a Mediterranean twist by the team of ‘Rinaldo’s Casa e Cucina’, plus Nonna Josie’s home-cooked fare and delicious Italian sweets including her ever popular amici & dolce platters.

IMG_0990Chrismont are celebrating with a two-day, lively affair brimming with exciting new release wines, top entertainment and dishes inspired by a southern Italian holiday, all with the region’s majestic vistas as your backdrop.

You can also experience a touch of Venice at the Bellini Bar with cocktails of La Zona Bellini and La Zona Spritz showcasing Chrismont’s La Zona Prosecco. This dry sparkling wine made in the authentic northern Italian style is shaping up to be the drink of summer – so jump in while it’s still spring and enjoy Prosecco ‘viva la vita’ style.

You can check out the entire Dolce Vita festival program HERE

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It occurred to me whilst finding images for this post that I have taken A LOT of photos of prosecco. And the King Valley. And I’m ok with that. It’s pretty. And I love it, so remember:

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* I was not asked to write this post, I am not being paid to write this post. It’s a public service announcement about all the bubbles. That is all. Prosecco Queen out…

Food Styling Course with Denise Vivaldo in Sydney, August 2-3

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I can’t contain my excitement – I’ve been invited to a food styling Masterclass in Sydney with Denise Vivaldo, culinary consultant, and author of ‘The Food Stylist’s Handbook’. Denise has been a leader in her field for over 30 years in the US, has worked with countless restaurants, stores and TV productions, and she’s coming to Australia for a 2 day intensive Masterclass on August 2 & 3 at the Sydney Cooking School.

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If you, like me, always wondered how many hours of preparation go into making cookbook photographs look so mouthwatering, you can find out in this hands-on experience, which promises to unveil the many secrets weapons of the food stylist, including how to recreate fire, heat and steam, how to make fake ice-cream that doesn’t melt whilst you’re trying to get it to smile and many other mysteries. You can read a fully-detailed description of the course here.

I’m really looking forward to meeting Denise, who sounds like an absolute hoot, and hanging out with the uber-talented Kirsty Bryson , food stylist, consultant and chef whose Instagram feed makes me swoon, who has worked on Masterchef, with household names like Tupperware, Devondale and Simplot, on numerous TV commercials, and with everybody’s favourite Melbourne caterers, Bright Young Things . Kirsty is also responsible for helping bring Denise’s classes to Australia.

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There are still some places left for the Masterclass so book a spot and I’ll see you there! And if you can’t make it, I’ll be photographing and documenting this amazing experience for an upcoming blog post. Keep your eyes peeled for some good fun from the class on Instagram in the meantime!