Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Estelle Bar - one word ... Amazing!

Ok ... firstly I have to say that I am totally devastated at how awful my photos turned out and how I seem to be missing some altogether! Which is a shame really as they would have served this review all that much better. In fact the one iPhone pic I took was miles ahead in focus and contrast than the rest of the sorry blurry bunch.
But there's no point in crying over spilt milk. As the menu was for the most part similar to the one had by Fatbooo, I refer you to his post for far better quality pics to up the drool factor as you proceed with this love letter I now compose to The Estelle Bar and Kitchen in Northcote.

The occasion was M's birthday and I had booked a table for Saturday night well in advance for the second seating at 8.30 (god I hate this 2 seating BS). Deliberately starving ourselves during the course of the day we opted for the 7 course Chef's tasting menu (you have a choice of 5, 7 or 9) with the Classic Wine matching.

After checking up on our dietary requirements and reassuring us that the 7 whites, one red and one dessert wine would only amount to 3 and a half glasses (we drove), we sat back in the slightly stultifying heat and waited for the night's comestibles to begin.

It started off with a trio of starters. Something called a Sardine Fossil served with a yoghurty mousse that was oddly sweet. The Sardine Fossil is a sort of fishy cracker much like your asian Prawn cracker, but slightly more sophisticated (or as we say in Singapore - high class!). The Fossil itself was delicious, but the mousse took a bit of a back seat to its salty fishy crunch ... and I haven't quite decided whether this was complimentary or rather superfluous.

The chickpea fritter with Olive salt, on the other hand, was all sorts of amazing and easily the best of the starters.

We made the mistake of not saving the Melon sponge (in an edible gelatin wrapper) till the end, as it would have been the ideal palate cleanser.

Our first half glass of wine for the night was a 2011 Bannockburn Sav Blanc from Geelong. We are not Sav blanc drinkers but the buttery and honey overtones in this wine were amazing. And it developed even more complexity with the next course served - Heirloom Beetroot and Goats Cheese in a Lavoche (sweet french biscuit) and black sesame fake ash coating. I don't do beetroot, let me just say first up. But I did beetroot here!! And the Goats cheese was out of this world. (you're going to have to put up with my struggle at finding alternatives to "amazing", "wonderful", "delicious" ...)

The next glass we had was a 2010 Henty Farm Chardonnay from Henty Victoria. A rather delicate white but again with those amazing buttery overtones that all good chardies have. Unfortunately this was marred by the slight misstep which was the next course - Tuna Sashimi in a toasted Quinoa crust with horseradish and a Red Cabbage Gazpacho ... yes you read that right ... a red cabbage Gazpacho. And if your face has a sucking on a lemon pout as you read this, that is a fair summation of what I thought about this dish. The Gazpacho is served in a little glass jar and you're meant to pour this ontop of the sashimi. I had a taste of the sashimi sans gazpacho and it was quite sedate, but once the gazpacho melded with the rest of the ingredients, it was the taste of a Singaporean longkang (i.e. drain). Negativo!!

After clearing the table of its redolent effluence, we were served what was the highlight of the liquid portion of our meal - a 2009 Marques de Alella Pansa Blanca from Penedes, Spain. I'm not really familiar with what a Pansa Blanca is, or what the grape equivalent is in antipodean parlance, but it is certainly a varietal that I will be looking out for in future. It has a sweet citrusy scent and flavour that is at once refreshingly light, and quite richly complex. It went exceedingly well with our next dish - the Baccalao with fennel and lemon air! I love Bacalao ... and this one was super salty and lemony and definitely bears repeating on our next visit.

Our second glass of Chardonnay was from France - Paul Pillot Chassagne Montrachet 'Les Mazures' from Burgundy France. I must admit that one Chardonnay was bleeding into the next at this point in time, but if memory serves me this was another clean white that was the perfect unintrusive foil for the Baby Abalone, soft boiled quail's egg and finger lime immersed in Peking Duck Consomme. On paper, this combination of ingredients shouldn't really work, but in the mouth ... oh.my.god! If I was on deathrow ... nuff said.

Our final main was prefaced by a glass of 2008 Shadowfax Shiraz using grapes from a number of regions throughout Victoria. We barely had a sip of this (yummy btw) before our intrepid dreadlocked sommelier returned with another 2 glasses of the Close du Mont Olivet 'La Sabonite' 2009 Grenache Blend from Southern Rhone, France. Apparently the Shiraz was too strong a flavour for the next course and not a good match. So we scored an extra glass of wine. The next dish to arrive was the Taste of Pork - pork loin, shoulder and jowl served with a nettle puree and Celeriac remoulade. The layer of jowl was a revelation, looking like a strip of bacon fat, it was bacony and chewy, almost like jerky and so so ever so yummy!

We were then served our "sweet" wine which was the Carnes de Rieussec 2007 from Sauternes France. I'm not really a dessert wine kinda girl, so I will simply go "meh". But M enjoyed it. The dessert outclassed it on all counts - Fresh Strawberries with Vanilla Cream and Basil Granita garnished with dessicated olives ... I would leave M for this dish if it had a chiselled physique and sturdy thighs! If you wanted to get your leg over on a first date, bring them here and order this. Satisfaction guaranteed!!

Our final dessert wine was the Punt Road Botrytis Semillon 2010 from Riverina NSW. I am a big fan of Punt road wines. There has not been a single bottle that I haven't enjoyed. This was no exception, except Botrytis sounds like a stomach condition. The actual dessert was a Vanilla and Olive Spongecake served with Salted Caramel. And if you want to get a legover me on our first date, serve me salted caramel! Its a pity that the preceeding dish was so amazing, I'm sure this could easily stand as a delight on its own. Delicious, but perhaps not as memorable.

 (pinched this photo from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/wine-and-dine?before=1322419560)

And just because, they served us an extra dessert which they called Coffee and Cigarettes, and which I "lovingly" called Moccona and Peter Jackson's. M enjoyed it.

In his blogpost, Fatboo sums up his evening with this paragraph:

"As we were brisk-walking back to the car in the chill wetness of an incredibly rainy Friday night, fakegf summed up the essence of Estelle perfectly in one simple sentence: "it's so fun and laughter despite being degustation!!". I smiled to myself... in a way, that breathless statement also more or less sums up dining in Melbourne. Grounded, relaxed, tucked-away and delicious."

And I have to agree. Me and M were all smiles and girlish laughter, which was so infectious that it carried over onto the couple sitting next to us and we enjoyed a wonderful conversation with strangers that felt just like old friends. Amazing!

Estelle Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, 30 January 2012

Australia Day at Mt Macedon

Ok ... every year M's band has the marvellous opportunity of playing at the Joy FM picnic in Mount Macedon. This year was no exception and we spent a few wonderful hours on a beautiful Summer's day amongst lush surroundings sipping (or rather spilling) a nice bottle of rose and munching on roast chicken, ham and pastrami rolls. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Pineapple Tarts!

Ok ... gift giving is a bitch but every now and then I strike gold and this year's Christmas and Birthday hit paydirt. Unfortunately M's medical practitioner has thrown us some shade and his Kenwood Patissier and shiny new marble slab have become the white good temptations of Job.

But everything in moderation right? Well there are exceptions, and Pineapple Tarts are one.

For CNY 2012, M tried his hand at making Pineapple tarts from scratch, pastry, jam and all.

It was a chance to give M's christmas present a full work out.

And I must say the end result was both suitably festive and pretty spot on in the flavour and texture stakes.

Hey Sister, Soul Sister ... its erm miss marmalade!

Ok ... I have always been curious about this little plonked in the middle of nowhere cafe that was always either closed or perpetually crowded every time we drove past. So after copping the whole "worse sense of direction" speech (I had no clue as to name or location), we finally worked out (thanks to Claire's wonderful blog) that we needed to head towards Union Street, Brunswick for the cafe delights of Miss Marmalade.

There's something special and slightly naughty about brunching/lunching on a working day. Its certainly less hectic than on a weekend, mind you we watched the cafe and the outdoor seating gradually fill up while we were sat in the cutest little window nook sipping 5 senses coffee and munching on our Tostade.

The staff are super friendly, the coffee fantastic and the food pretty darn (well what we had anyways) amazing.

Our pork belly and chorizo tostade is apparentlya recent addition to the menu which they are trying out. Well I hope it becomes a mainstay as it was the perfect combination of avo, fresh tomatoes, roasted caps, yoghurt aioli, manchego, chorizo and pulled pork. Heaven.

We'll definitely be back. I need to try the green fritters and also the duck.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Gourmet Truck Juggernaut - CBA Friday at the Gumbo Kitchen

Ok ... so we're jumping on the gourmet truck phenomenon bandwagon, joining countless other Melburnians frantically checking their twitter pages to see where the latest taco/burger/sausage rolls are being parked and served.

The newest edition is the Gumbo Kitchen and their delectable Po'Boys!!

On Friday nights the Gumbo Kitchen truck is usually parked out the front of the Lux Foundry Cafe in Brunswick, which is an ideal spot as there's masses of room both in and out doors for hungry punters to soak up the sun and chow down.

Plus there is cold beer to be had at the bar.

The Gumbo Kitchen serves up road stand style Creole food, with a selection of Gumbo served with rice and also the aforementioned "Po'Boys"! We chose to have the Domilises - "Slow braised beef debris on chunky fries with cajun remoulade and pickles".

And we also ordered a Prawn Po' Boy - "Deep fried, lightly spiced and battered shrimp, crispy lettuce, tomato, pickles, Cajun spiced remoulade and Crystal hot sauce all packed into a fluffy bread roll".

Let me break it down (Bobbie Brown!) - you don't follow a roving truck round the cooler hipster suburbs expecting food with finesse and concerns about provenance and distilled organic flavours. This is a whomp in your face hit of salty mischief that your Doctor will advise against in respect to your health, but should encourage in respect to gimmicky fun and frivolity. (and believe me, its salty!!)

So like them on facebook or follow them on twitter, then hope for a fine day and warm weather, and track these Po'Boys down!! Its fun!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

I have a youtube page and I'm not afraid to use it ...

Ok ... 2012 is the year that I am attempting to increase my online footprint. I'm still not quite there yet with Twitter or any of those "on the go" type social applications, mainly because I'm cheap and refuse to pay the exorbitant per megabees data rates on my otherwise criminally cheap mobile service plan.

Anyhoo, I am here to announce that the Temasekblog engine now has its own youtube page for (before you get all excited) lovers of stupefying videos of records playing, bad taste music and tinny sound.

Intrigued? Well log on here.

Here is a sample of the "delights" on offer:

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Gong Xi Fa Cai 2012 - Part 1

Ok ... my paternal grandfather had 2 chinese wives ... erm ... at the same time. And although my father grew up speaking both Bahasa and Cantonese, with a soupcon of Oriental traditions and customs thrown in, the later intrusion of Christianity put paid to any hope of ushering the lunar new year in with due festivity.

So its only since I have arrived on antipodean shores that I have had the opportunity to celebrate CNY, and that is mainly due to our good friend CC.

So this year was no different, although we marked the occasion slightly earlier than convention dictates, still its always fascinating to see what changes have been made to their Bulleen monolith, and what other wondrous produce their garden extrudes with annoying ease.

This time round it was what has been affectionately termed a wall of Nursing Home art (sadly I did not coin this phrase but have appropriated it in the spirit of convivial joshing):

And some lovely variegated roses (they have this is in the garden, but these particular specimens were store bought):

Our evening's repast began with a mandatory serve of Lo-Bak-Go (Chinese Radish Cake). You can find these in all good Asian shops throughout the year, but supplies increase in the lead up to Chinese New Year. Its basically a rectangular slab of cooked radish cake dotted with dried shrimp and chinese mushroom. You cut these into squarish pieces and pan fry them to form a golden brown crust all round. Serve with a garlic, soy and chilli dip. This is absolutely scrumptious and a great starter whatever the time of year. But be warned, the tendency is to guts yourself on this and end up not having room for much else.

CC had these gorgeous long sweet green capsicums that he picked from his garden and decided to stuff these with a mixture of minced pork and beef and prawn. The leftover mixture was used to stuff some chinese mushrooms that he had handy. These were served as entree along with the Lo-Bak-Go. They were to die for. And the green peppers had a bit of a scoville punch.

To help wash down a bit of all this fired goodness, there was slow cooked chicken broth, using the standard Chinese dried herb mix and not much else. Perfect digestive preparation for the mains to come.

I'm not sure about the significance of the various numbers and ingredients, but for mains we had a piece of fried swordfish with a spring onion and sesame sauce;

Slow cooked sweet pork which had to be cut into Squares theoretically;

And DV rustled up a quick dish of Tofu which again was amazingly simple and delicious (bastard!).

Unfortunately my photo seems to have gone walkabout, but we also had stir fried asparagus with scallops.

All in all, CC outdid himself yet again in the culinary stakes and served a memorable meal to usher in the pending prosperity that we are sure to all enjoy this year.

And of course we ended the night with some Nian Gao (sticky cake), which CC friend with egg and served with Passionfruit Gelato (which I politely declined even as he tried his forceful best to convince me otherwise). Although I am partial to a bit of sticky sugary yumminess, I must admit and agree with H that when it arrived a-table, under the dim dining room lights, it did look like raw steak ready for the bbq.

So in the end, although DV was unable to purchase his roast duck, CC got his 10 dishes:

(i) a selection of fruit with cocktails served poolside
(ii) M's pineapple tarts (this will be another post)
(iii) Lo-Bak-Go
(4) Stuffed Long chillies
(5) Chicken Soup
(6) Slow cooked pork
(7) Stir fried swordfish
(8) DV's Tofu extravaganza
(9) Stir fried asparagus and scallop
(10) Nian Gao

So to you and yours, Xin Nian Quia Le!!!

Newport Lights

Ok ... further on from my previous post about Newport Lakes, our recent warehouse find has been installed and is looking marvellous!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Newport - "such a pretty house and such a pretty garden"

Ok ... well I'm sure Thom Yorke was erring on the "Sarki" side with those lyrics, but I will appropriate them to describe Newport - beautiful victorian double fronters with the occassional faux-brick missteps and glass-cut modern temples nestled amongst old brick silos and bone-white industry, plus the cutest little shopping village this side of Essendon.

We tootled along its savvy streets in M's clapped out Camry, passing European 4 wheelers in their dozens, on our way to the suburb's slice of suburban bush - the Newport Lakes.

What a pleasant way to spend a glorious summer sunday arvo, casually strolling through native flaura circumventing a man made stone quarry lake.


We can't wait to get back here for some picky-nicky action! Any takers?

PS we even came away with some homewear bargains - soon to be an outdoor lamp shade and snazzy waste paper basket.

Have you had your Miaow Mix for today?

Ok ... watchu talkin bout Willis!

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