Lady Carolina still likes to party


IMG_5434IMG_5442Lady Carolina in Lygon St, East Brunswick, opened to much fanfare last September, with Latin-food loving chef Paul Wilson at the helm. The food was bloody awesome, and the décor was gorgeous, and included an Astroturf backyard complete with a bright, colourful bar and beach seats backing onto a garden full of banana palms.


Less than 12 months later it’s changed hands, but there’s no cause for alarm.
Chef and co-owner Hugo Diaz has pared back the menu, and he and his South American team are cooking what they know and love. The front of house team is made up of those most precious hospo types : the ones who actually want to be there, love what they do, and make everyone who walks through the door feel welcome.

I visited Lady Carolina last Friday night as a guest, and we loved every single second of the experience, from the Pisco Sour to start, to the pumpkin fritters for dessert, and every spicy, delicious thing in between. We opted for the Latin Feast menu, which mean an avalanche of awesome came at us, and our vegetarian friends were happily catered for as well.


The place was packed by 7pm with young people, old people , couples , families, all locals who have embraced the changing of the guard with fervor, enjoying the festive atmosphere, and Latin music which creates an atmosphere of being on holiday in Cuba instead of in freezing Melbourne in the dead of Winter.


Add this to your list, Northside peeps. Definitely will be back ASAP for more of that goodness. Thanks for having us and sending us into a food coma!


Chargrilled corn from the Asado, with coriander mayo, dried chilli macha oil, and queso fresco cheese



Pork short ribs, Argentinian skirt steak with chimmichurri, Frijoles, Potato salad, chargrilled cauliflower, quinoa salad



Pumkpin fritters heated in dark brown sugar, cinnamon and clove syrup

Dessert churros with caramel cream and Mexican chocolate sauce
Cindy’s Grandma’s flan – cream cheese and pecan crème caramel


Glenrowan & Glamping


 There’s nothing like an impromptu road-trip to discover yet another Victorian wine region where you also end up making friends with beer. When your accommodation is a romantic middle-of-nowhere glampsite complete with natural beauty and wildlife, where you can still be in time for dinner at a city-quality restaurant in just 20 minutes, it kinda feels like you’ve hit the adventure jackpot. This was our experience when we headed for Glenrowan this weekend.

Right now until the 18th of May you can stay at the Winton Wetlands (just over 2 hours from Melbourne, in Victoria’s North East, at the Mokoan Flash Tents camp, in luxury canvas tents, each complete with king-sized bed covered in soft warm fluffy doona, solar lamp, deck chairs, gorgeous Biology toiletries  and extra rugs for added warmth, for just $150 (for 2 ppl).

The campsite features a generator-powered hot shower, toilets, picnic tables, bikes, and a fire (wood provided).

A spectacular location and photographer’s paradise, activities at the Wetlands include walking, bike riding, bird watching, canoing and star gazing. Incredible natural beauty, year round.


A stone’s throw from the camp is the Glenrowan wine region, where you’ll find deep, plummy shiraz, and dark berry durif, as well as some fantastic fortified and even a few good whites.


Wangaratta and Benalla are both close by (roughly 20-25 minutes) so if you’re looking for either breakfast or dinner options, you’ll be spoilt for choice. We love Cafe The PreVue, Cafe DeRailleur or the newly opened Bertsy & Co for brunch or coffee, and for the classic Italian cucina experience you can’t go past Rinaldo’s for dinner.

But first, the wine!  We met Lennie at Baileys of Glenrowan, a winery that’s been around since 1870, and whose wines consistently rate a mid to high 90’s from Mr Halliday. Lennie was only too happy to take us through the range, we fell a little bit in love with the organic Shiraz and the 2013 Durif ( which we brought home with us)

Baileys also do a mean wood-fired pizza, as well as antipastos and cheeses at the Old Block Cafe, nestled amidst a gorgeous old garden.FullSizeRender-1


Just up the road is Taminick Cellars where James Booth is continuing over 100 years of family winemaking tradition, producing Rose, Nero D’Avola, Shiraz and Durif.

In 2011 he opened the Black Dog Brewery on site,  hand-crafting small-batch, preservative-free beers from premium malted barley, hops and yeast strains with pure Warby Ranges water. For a non-beer drinker I was pretty taken with the ‘Saison’! We picked up both the Shiraz and Durif, as well as a 6 pack of beers to enjoy at home.

Auldstone Cellars is also close by so we dropped in to have a chat with Nancy. As well as reds, Auldstone are producing some award-winning chardonnay and riesling. We even bagged 1989 (yep, you read that right) aged riesling that we opened when we got home and it took a few hours to wipe the smile off my face. Oh yeah.

Next time we’ll go back and visit Morrisons Winery which we just couldn’t fit in on the day.

If you’re camping, make sure you leave plenty of time for exploring the wetlands, just remember to pack a portable phone charger since there’s no electricity (although perfect phone/data reception to share your sunset pics on Insta!) and just revel in the sensation of being woken up by the birds instead of an alarm clock.





Mr Wednesday – ok any day of the week


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

Instagram Mr Wednesday

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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



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

Information provided by Zilla and Brook PR

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


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.


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.


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
Terre – Mornington Peninsula (ex Royal Mail)
Levantine Hill Estate (soon to be home to Ezard)


NSW – All Hat winners
Pilu at Freshwater
Bathers Pavilion

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


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.













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.


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.


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


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)


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.


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.





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.







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.


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.


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.

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!

Behind the Hedge – Coombe Farm in the Yarra Valley



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.




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.




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.




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.






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.








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




















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.








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)


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: