Phat Brats – Doing it doggy-style

At the Johnston St end of Brunswick St in Fitzroy, you’ll find Phat Brats – arguably the best hot dogs in Melbourne. After multiple visits since they opened, this opinion has been formed by everyone at our house, including the 7 year old who is apparently an expert on such matters.

Made with locally-sourced ingredients, including the gorgeous brioche buns which come from a Vietnamese bakery in Richmond, the Phat Brats boys offer a menu packed full of variety and doggy goodness.

Amongst others, there’s the wagyu beef, the chilli dog, the cheesy smoked kransky with sauerkraut, the lamb and rosemary with minted peas, gravy and raw slaw, the chicken and herb dog, and the very sensational vegetarian ‘Superfood Dog’ of sweet potato, quinoa, tamarind, chilli lime mayo, coriander and sour cream. All worth a taste, and now thanks to their snack-sized menu option you can try as many as you like in one sitting.

And don’t get me started on the cheesy fries – these bad boys need their own Facebook page and Twitter account, they’re that good. Seriously.

At the recent Phat Brats ‘DOGUSTATION’, put together by the fine ladies at Zilla & Brook the very lovely Tiffany Waldren (@beergirlbites) artfully matched a 5-course hot dog menu with an array of Southern Bay Brewing Co beers.

Not only were the dogs sensational, but Tiffany managed by matching the very delicious ‘Robust Porter’ to the dessert hot dog (a brioche hot dog bun filled with chocolate icecream, whipped cream, berry coulis, toasted coconut and crushed pistachios…hello!!!!) to officially covert me into a drinker of beer. And I have it on good authority that the dessert doggie may be making its way onto the menu, which makes me one happy little puppy.

Please enjoy the following food porn with my heartiest compliments. But be warned – resistance is useless.

Phat Brats, 320 Brunswick St, FITZROY www.phatbrats.con.au

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I attended the Phat Brats ‘Dogustation’ as a guest but was not asked to write this review. I did that because the dogs are awesome.

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Lil Boy Blue – red hot

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When I heard we had a new café/restaurant/bar opening up literally 5 minutes from our front doorstep, I was pretty happy. Kew now has a burgeoning dining scene, from the more established Estivo and St Katherines, to Mr Bianco (who just celebrated their 1st birthday), and the very excellent Ora, but there’s always room for more!

The latest offering at Lil Boy Blue from the extremely hospitable Josh Clarke and his gorgeous wife now opens up a whole new range of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Let’s start with the coffee. Allpress. Made lovingly and expertly by the instantly best-friendable Casey. This lady sure knows how to make a piccolo. I’ve got a bit of a girl crush to be honest.
It didn’t hurt that the first time I walked in, she greeted me like part of the family. This is a trait shared by all the staff, who can’t do enough to make you feel right at home, including Josh himself who took time out to have a chat and show off some of his tempting baked goods straight out of the oven.

Then there’s the gorgeous fit out: exposed brick, bright blue glassware, lovely crockery, quirky light fittings, hand painted bathroom doors, ornate framing, and fresh flowers.

And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. On my first visit I tried the BLT brioche. Heaven. Salty and sweet all at the same time, and for dessert a poached pear tart with vanilla bean anglaise and toasted crushed almonds. Divine.

For our breakfast visit we tried the pulled pork brioche with truffle pecorino and pickles which was indeed the business. Luckily we still had room to try the gorgeous Noisette fruit loaf with whipped honey and vanilla butter. Perfect. They also have donuts filled with Turkish delight so there goes my diet.

Upstairs can be used as a function space, or to just take the overload from downstairs when they get busy. On my second visit in as many days (yes it’s that good) the place was HEAVING at 10am. I mean turning-people-away-busy, and they’ve only been open 2 weeks.

They very kindly take bookings for breakfast which I dig, but I can see this place having a queue down the street before too long, as the word spreads and people get a taste for Casey’s coffee. (Back off people, I saw her first!)

There is also a fabulous little room at the very front of the upstairs space, which is now referred to as ‘The Ladies’ Celebration Room’ because since Lil Boy Blue opened, it has been constantly occupied by groups of girlfriends with buckets of bubbles. Sounds like the perfect idea to me. Again, book this ahead of time to avoid disappointment!

Now we just need to go back and try the dinner menu, and I can’t wait. Stay tuned for that!
You can find Lil Boy Blue at 309 High St in Kew. There are probably more than a few locals who will want to punch my lights out for sharing this with everyone, but I just had to let you know. It’s bloody marvellous.

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The Great Truffle Caper (AKA The Power of Twitter)

This is the story of how Twitter saved my marriage. Rewind to 2 weekends ago when we were visiting my sister in Canberra. The Truffle Festival just happened to be on at the same time, and we decided that before we left we simply had to bring a truffle home to Melbourne. We ended up at the Fyshwick market, which is home to the lovely 3 Seeds - a cooking school, store and canteen.

Not only were they holding truffle cooking demonstrations, they also had truffles (amongst other glorious items) for sale. We watched eagerly as the lovely lady there weighed up a nice chunk of truffle for us on her scales, and we decided impulsively (and expensively) to get some extra, so we could try our hand at making truffle butter and truffle salt as well.

3 Seeds in Canberra

Next came the instructions on how to store our precious brown lump – and I have to admit that verbal information retention is not my strong point. I’m better with a leaflet that I can re-read later. So in the end what I actually heard was “wrap the truffle in paper towel and put it in a jar with some eggs, and change the paper towel every day..something, something… white noise…” Clutching our little bag we made a dash for the airport, and I cleverly remembered that I had a truffle in my handbag when we got home, followed the instructions I could remember and that was that.

That evening, elated by our purchase my husband told close friends we were going to cook them a dinner of epic proportions later in the week, with said truffle. So plans were made, eye fillet was procured, along with shallots, and veal stock. The night before the truffle extravaganza was scheduled I decided to take a peek at our little brown friend, and to my horror discovered it was now a very mouldy, furry little friend. Apparently the white noise I had heard at 3 Seeds was ‘and put it in the fridge’. Doh.

My husband to his eternal credit, worked hard at this point not to have a heart attack, but it was clear that the blame rested solely on my shoulders for not refrigerating our precious treasure, and my suggestion that he had been more than welcome to check on my work, and the state of the truffle at any point between purchase and the present, was met with expletives I won’t print here for fear of breaking the internet.

So it began. My remorse was sent into the Twitterverse thus:

The next morning, when we were talking again, I assured my husband “I can fix this, just give me a few hours”.

So I sent a Twitter SOS at 7.54am:

In total, with 2 retweets, my distress call reached over 3042 people in those first few minutes before 8am on Thursday morning.

I boarded my train and within 3 stations, the replied started flooding in…

And then, at 8.11am my salvation came, in the form of the wonderful Sara, of A Table Cooking with this little beauty:

A phone call was made, and then a flurry of texts followed over the course of the morning, to enable the lunchtime hook-up. I traipsed from one end of the CBD to the other, cash and gratitude cupcake in hand, to meet Sara at the appointed time and place. She’d even texted me a photo of my truffle, already nestled in a little gift box, waiting for me.

Sara also assured me that I was not the first person to have neglected their fungus, which made me feel slightly better. With my replacement truffle safely packed away in the fridge at work, it was time to let the Twitterverse know that things had worked out, and thank people for their help. (And a special shout out too here to ‘Truffle Daryl’  at Aureus Park Truffles who also offered assistance)

And of course, now to go home and serve up the promised truffle extravaganza to our guests, who were enormously appreciative, even more so when regaled with the tale of how their dinner came to be, because (to borrow from Caroline Tunnell-Jones of First Growth Communications, another of my lovely Twitter buddies) “FOOD tastes better with a story”. But it didn’t hurt that we had some damn fine wine to go with all this either.

Dinner is served!

And finally here is the recipe, so you can see exactly what we did with the truffle, from Gabriel Gate http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/457/Beef_fillet_with_truffles_and_foie_gras

PS: We didn’t actually use the foie gras

Beef fillet with truffles and foie gras recipe

Ingredients

2 medium potatoes
Salt
1/4 cup milk
40 g butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
10 g truffles
2 pieces of eye fillet, each about 200 g
2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp oil
2 tbsp Madeira wine (we used Buller Wine’s award winning Muscat instead – considering how much trouble we’d gone to with the truffle, we decided to go for gold here)
1/4 cup veal stock
Freshly ground black pepper
2 slices of foie gras, each about 20 g

Preparation

Cut potatoes into quarters and place in a small saucepan. Cover with cold, salted water, bring to the boil and cook potatoes until done.

Bring milk to the boil in a medium saucepan.

Drain potatoes and pass them through a mouli over the milk. Combine mashed potato with hot milk and mix in two-thirds of the butter. Put mashed potato aside.

Chop shallots and cut truffles into small strips.

Season eye fillets with salt and cracked pepper.

Heat oil and half the butter in a small pan and cook eye fillets on high heat for 3-5 minutes on each side. Transfer steaks to a plate and cover with foil.

Add half the remaining butter to pan. Add shallots and stir for 2 minutes. Add Madeira and bring to the boil. Add stock, return to the boil and boil for 1 minute. Add remaining butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in sliced truffles.

Serve a little hot mashed potato onto 2 plates. Top with steak. Place a slice of foie gras on top of steak, spoon a little sauce over and serve.