Tag Archives: reviews

Eating Good Things In Paris

I am, in fact, still writing my travel diaries, but adding pictures on this laptop is an absolute pain in the neck, and they still come out sideways half the time, so I probably won’t post any more of those updates until I’m in Australia again.  (And have dealt with the 16 ungrouped independents on the Senate ballot, aargh.)

But since tonight is my last night in Paris, I thought it was timely to write a post about the best meals I’ve had here, and also about the best patisserie I’ve had here.  I will add photographs at a later date, but good food information is always urgent, and now you will know why I will be radio silent until after the election, probably.

Edited on October 14 – I have finally added the photos!  Sorry this took so long.

Excellent Meals In Paris

I have to admit, I have found some terrible meals in Paris.  I had quite the run of bad luck last week, culminating in Café Panorama in Montmartre, which managed the brilliant combination of really poor service and really terrible food (I didn’t know you could make steak that tough and dry), with the waiter then getting terribly offended that I didn’t stay for dessert, even though I’d paid for it.

But I have also had some amazing meals.

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Travel Post! Newcastle, Wallsend, York, and the Blackbird Bar, Todmorden

I’m having a domestic sort of day today, and the friend I’m staying with is busy writing her sermons for tomorrow so I thought I’d pop in with a quick update on my trip so far, my English Food Experiences, and a review of the bar we went to last night.

I reached Newcastle on Wednesday, and was greeted by my friend Tora, who I have known online for more than a decade, but have never previously met in person.  She drove me back to her house for a much-needed nap, and then pointed me in the direction of a walk in the countryside of Blaydon on Tyne, to stretch my legs, and help convince my body that it was on UK time.

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Blaydon Burn is extremely pretty – I’ve never been to England in spring before, and so I derived an unreasonable amount of pleasure from things like hawthorn blossoms and buttercups.

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Also from spinning around on the buttercup field pretending to be Kate Bush singing about Heathcliff.

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Review: Floral High Tea at Josephine’s

As you surely all know by now, I am *very* enamoured of Josephine’s amazing food, particularly her delicate touch with flavour.  In fact, I am so enamoured of her work that having had this beautiful floral High Tea less than two weeks ago, I was back again for her standard High Tea yesterday for a work function.  (I didn’t actually organise this particular function, I’ve just done a fine job of sharing my addiction.)

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So you can imagine that when I saw that Josephine was doing a special floral High Tea for Good Food Month, my immediate thought was ‘sign me up!’.  My best friend was visiting from Darwin, and needed to leave for the airport at 4pm, so we booked in our fancy High Tea for two at two, and sat inside where it was warm while Melbourne expressed its feelings about visitors who always complain that its weather is cold and rainy.

(ask and you shall receive – I can’t remember the last time my friend’s visit did *not* herald a sudden cool change.)

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We arrived a few minutes early, laden with bags and suitcases, which Josephine kindly let us hide out the back so that we could enjoy our lunch/tea unencumbered.  Friday at 2pm is a good time for High Tea – the lunch crowd has left, and it’s a work day, so not too many people are coming in for an afternoon snack.  We didn’t quite have the shop to ourselves, but it was a lovely, quiet space for delicate food and a last round of chatting before my friend had to catch her plane.

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Catherine Day and High Tea at the NGV

It lives!

Once again, I am emerging briefly from the insanity that is my work this year to give this whole blogging thing another try.  I suspect that this will be a one-off again, as my next event is only four weeks away and right now I don’t have much time or energy for cooking, let alone thinking of new recipes, but you never know.  Also, while I am boringly not talking about food, a quick admin note – I’ve recently switched to a new webhosting provider, because I got tired of waiting 40 seconds for a page to load, and figured that you were probably tired of it too.  Hopefully the site is now running a bit better, but if you notice any issues (or broken links), please let me know!

Today was Catherine Day at the National Gallery of Victoria.  This event was announced about a week ago, in honour of the current exhibition of works from Catherine the Great’s Hermitage.  Anyone with the name Catherine or Kate (any spelling, middle names count) could get into the exhibition for free.

The greatest of Catherines, in a rather crooked photo because the gallery was full and it was hard to get near enough to the portrait for a photo without someone standing in front of me!

As someone who has spent her entire life in the middle of a crowd of Catherines and Kates (and who regularly signed her letters ‘Catherine the Great’ as a teenager), with the only benefit to date being the inability of anyone to ever guess the spelling of my name correctly (a pox on all those people who call their daughters Kathryn!) this was absolutely irresistible.  So I informed my longsuffering lab heads that I was taking the day off for a Very Important Event, and this morning I hied me forth to the gallery at 10am to see just how many Catherines would show up to a Catherine-centric event.

The answer was… quite a lot.  About fifty of us were milling around the door before the gallery opened (“Is this the Catherine area?”  “Are we all Catherines?”  “Well, he certainly isn’t!”), and by the time we were gathered for a photo, there were at least a hundred, maybe even double that.  When they grouped us together in front of the big portrait of Catherine the Great, we filled the area all squashed together (“Tall Catherines at the back!” one Catherine suggested “OK, which Catherine blinked?” asked another).  It was highly amusing.  The premier’s wife, Catherine Andrews, came around and greeted us all and asked us whether we were Catherine with a C or with a K, and high fived us for being C Catherines (something tells me that she, too, has suffered from the tendency of everyone to always assume K.  I blame L.M. Montgomery).  Other guests looked at us askance, evidently not aware of the event and rather wishing they had picked another day to visit.  We were photographed by several newspapers and a couple of TV channels (nice and well-deserved publicity for the NGV), and then released into the wild to enjoy our Catherine exhibition.

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Review: Vegan Degustation at Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

A couple of weeks ago, I had a message on my Facebook page from Shu, the owner and chef at Shu Restaurant.  Shu Restaurant is a relatively new (three years old?) restaurant in Collingwood specialising in Sichuan fusion cuisine, and Shu wanted to invite me to a twelve course Christmas in August vegan degustation that he was organising for a group of Melbourne vegetarian food bloggers.

A vegan Sichuan fusion  Christmas in August degustation.  I had absolutely no idea what that entailed, but it sounded completely fascinating.  I was in.

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To really do this review justice, I think it is important to start by noting that I am actually a fairly terrible audience for Sichuan food.  I am not good with food that is very spicy – and really, all I knew about Sichuan food was that it was very spicy indeed – and I very rarely eat Chinese food of any stamp.  This is because I always disliked Chinese food whenever we ate it when I was growing up, and I have not really explored the cuisine enough to give it a fair try as an adult, mostly because the prevalence of peanuts, soy sauce and chilli has tended to discourage me.  (Having said that, on both the occasions on which I have both eaten and enjoyed Chinese food as an adult, that food was vegan, so the omens were not entirely inauspicious.)

The point is that while I was really excited to be asked to this degustation, and I do really want to give new food experiences a chance, I was also a little terrified that I’d walk out with my head on fire from all the chilli.

I didn’t.  The food was delicious and delicate and very, very pretty, the spice levels were varied, but had enough gentle dishes among them to keep anyone from combusting, and it was a truly new set of flavours for me.  I would definitely go back.

Oh, and two more quick disclaimers / apologies before I start.  First, in case I have not made this sufficiently clear, I am horribly ignorant about the flavours and ingredients used in Sichuan cuisine.  So I have described everything as well as I can, but I may well have things wrong.  Second, I forgot my camera when leaving the house, so the photos were all taken on my phone, and are thus not very good.

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Review: Jimmy’s Place, Doughnuts, and the First Long Walk

We’ve reached that time of year again when my colleagues and I strap on our pedometers, spend a week or so calibrating them (does this pedometer work better than that one?  Do I get more points with my pedometer attached to my pocket or my waistband?  How about my bra?), and then begin our adventures with the Global Corporate Challenge.

For me, these adventures largely consist of the rather depressing need to get up half an hour earlier each day so that I can take a long walk before work – being in a sedentary job, it’ts extremely difficult to rack up the 12,000 steps per day that is my goal most years.  But every four weeks or so, the GCC has a challenge weekend, during which teams try to get extra steps in order to earn trophies, and that is where my team comes into its own, because we do Excursions.

I’ve been a sorry excuse for a Team Captain this year, mostly because I’ve been a sorry excuse for a Catherine, with a cold that has been lingering for several weeks, leaving me disinclined to extra effort.  So I was a bit alarmed when I saw that a challenge weekend was approaching, as I had absolutely no notion of what to do this time around.  Fortunately for me, Facebook intervened, in the form of a post about a little family-owned milk bar in Fawkner – Jimmy’s Place –  which has recently risen from obscurity to extreme popularity through the sale of its Italian-style doughnuts.

Now, I find the very idea of this delightful.  Milkbars are a dying breed in Australia – the GST knocked out most of the ones in our area – and I miss the local shopping strip of my childhood.  And while the Inner Northern Suburbs are these days the habitat of the Greenie Lefty Hipster Yuppy (and I say this with love, because I share a number of these traits myself), Fawkner, being beyond the boundaries of Melbourne’s tram system, is far more working class.  Proudly so, in fact – Fawkner and the suburbs around it have been keeping Wills a safe Labor seat for decades, and will probably continue to do so for a good number of years yet.

Fawkner, in short, is not a trendy suburb.  It’s not posh.  It’s not cool. And yet, people are coming from all over Melbourne for these doughnuts.  This fills my Northern Suburbs heart with patriotic pride.  Go, Northern suburbs!

Also, go, doughnuts!

Also, go, doughnuts!

Anyway, I looked on the map, and Fawkner really is not all that far from my corner of the Kingdom of Greenie Lefty Hipster Yuppies, which is great news for personal doughnut consumption purposes, but less good news when one actually wants to get a lot of steps on one’s pedometer, and decided that going from home was way too easy, but if we walked up Sydney Rd from Parkville, then went down Harding Street and followed the Merri Creek Bike Path to Fawkner, that would be a comfortable 12km, an easy walk for my group. Continue reading

Review: Curry Delights

A little while back, I signed up for a KickStarter called Curry Delights.  Curry Delights is a new business, founded by Ambika and Vikram, who live in Sydney and want to bring Indian feasts into Australian kitchens.  The idea is that you subscribe, and once a month you get a box containing a combination of spice mixes, raw rice grains and poppadoms, ready to eat snacks, a dessert, a shopping list for fresh ingredients, and a recipe booklet telling you how to put together your menu.  Ambika and Vikram promise a new menu every month, featuring a different Indian cuisine.

This sort of thing is absolutely irresistible for someone like me.  I love hampers, I love surprises, I love cooking, and I’m really kind of useless at cooking Indian food, so it really was a win all around – I backed the Kickstarter immediately, and signed up for three months of boxes, as well as a gratuitous box of snacks to eat in front of the cricket.  The first box arrived this week.

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(Actually, it arrived last Friday, and the evil courier didn’t deliver it, and then dropped it off somewhere that we couldn’t possibly collect it from until Tuesday.  Mere words cannot convey how frustrating this was.  I wanted my exciting Indian surprise feast and I couldn’t have it!)

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Review: Learning Macaron Towers from Josephine

I’ve written about Josephine and her macarons here before.  For those who have not been to Macarons by Josephine, it’s a little French tea shop on Sydney Road Brunswick that specialises in macarons and tarts, but which also does a number of beautiful savoury dishes.  The high tea I had there last year was by far the best high tea I’ve been to.  What makes Josephine’s food stand out, I think, is her precise, delicate, impeccable balance of flavours.  I haven’t tasted anything like it elsewhere.

As for her macarons – well, to be honest, I’m not a conoisseur of macarons.  While there is something almost magical about them, and some of the flavour combinations used are amazing, I find most (including, she says pretentiously, those of Pierre Hermé) far too sweet for my taste.  But Josephine’s do manage to tempt me – her macarons are small, not overwhelmingly sugary, and flavoured with beautiful things like violets or black sesame.

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So when I heard that Josephine was giving a class not just on her macarons but on how to make a macaron tower, I was intrigued.  And when I realised that it was on the first day of my holidays, I jumped at the chance.  It’s been the sort of month where overtime has been on the menu every day, and while I was theoretically off work from the morning of the 23rd, I rather suspected I’d wind up in the office regardless – unless I had a patisserie course that meant I absolutely had to be somewhere else…

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Review: Cake, Bake and Sweets Show, Melbourne

I’ve spent the last couple of days at the Cake, Bake and Sweets Show in Melbourne.  So, judging by the crowds, has most of the rest of Melbourne, but just in case anyone missed it, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

I first heard about the show about a month ago, when my Entertainment subscription offered me two for one tickets.  Of course, I took one look at the program and decided that what I really wanted was a three day ticket, but I also took the two for one deal so that I could invite a couple of friends along to hang out with me.  The show promised to be a mixture of baking and decorating demonstrations, classes, and stalls, with a few competitions thrown in.  Sort of like the Royal Melbourne Show, only all sugar, all the time.

I was a pretty easy sell, I have to say.

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Travel Diary – Darwin Part 1: Markets and Barbecues and no personal injury

Hello!  I’m back!  Currently, my body still thinks it is on European time, but my body pretty much always thinks it is on European time, so I’m going to assume that this is just normal and get used to it.  (Fun fact:  I really don’t get jetlag going to Europe.  Quite the contrary – I arrive exhausted, sleep, and then the next day I am actually up reasonably early and refreshed as my body reels with delight that *finally* the sun is up at a time when it wants to be awake.  Coming back… works less well.)

I’m still adjusting to being back in my own house.  It was quite disorienting at first, especially the walls and ceilings – with the exception of the days in Paris, I’ve been sleeping in a series of narrow beds in cosy little rooms under the eaves – lots of sloping ceilings and walls always within touching reach.  It’s really weird waking in the night and not being able to feel the walls and ceiling with my bat-like radar senses.  No, really.

Anyway, while the rest of the Veg-Friendly Blogosphere is indulging in Vegan Mo Fo (which I really will do one of these years), I intend to revel in a few weeks of writing up my travel diary.  With pictures.  Also with recipes and the odd restaurant review, and lots of discussion of food, especially Norwegian food, because believe me, we ate some very strange things in Norway.  If travel writing is not your cup of tea, never fear.  The recipes, at least, will be kept in separate posts, so you can ignore my enthusiastic descriptions of opera in Norwegian or little-known French castles in favour of the good stuff.

If, on the other hand, you do enjoy reading about people’s trips, well, then you have much to look forward to.  Because, as I’m sure you will be unsurprised to know, I kept a travel diary.  An extensive one.  And my plan is to transcribe a fair bit of it here.

So here goes…

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