Friday, March 27, 2009

maldini hobart

47 Salamanca Place Hobart

Dinner with colleagues in Hobart led us on a quiet Tuesday night to Salamanca Place. Usually buzzing at the weekend, most places were still doing a fairly brisk business in the early evening, but we chose the one with most diners in.

With a good view of the open kitchen and some friendly wait staff, we settled in for the evening. The frequently opening main door proved a little chilly at times but there were no other seating options. Plenty of wines by the glass was a help to the white wine drinkers, and Don and I chose a nice Rufus Stone shiraz to warm us up.

The bruschetta we ordered to share for starters were lovely - lots of flavour and fresh. I hardly ever order risotto in a restaurant but I couldn't go past the chicken risotto: it was hearty, flavoursome and generous in size. I ate slowly and enjoyed every mouthful. Julie's wallaby looked lovely and she attested to its tenderness.

With a bill of $210 in total, I am not sure it was great value despite the fact that the food was very good. The wine was $50 in total so that is $40 a head for four people. Nothing to complain about but given we only had two bruschetta to share for starters, it seems a little steep. Nonetheless, a pleasant dining experience overall.

st. jude's cellars

389-391 Brusnwick Street Fitzroy

A frantic dash across the Tasman Sea from Hobart saw me arriving late on Brunswick Street for a major catch-up and gossip session with my best friend Eileen.

St. Jude's Cellars is a canteen-like funky space with a cage full of wine that you can choose from and drink at your table or take away. We sat at a cosy table for two and the maitre d' hid my luggage away in the manager's office out of the way.

A glass of The Story shiraz soothed my frequent flyer worries away. After an epic month of flying to every corner of Australia, this had been the final trip and I could feel myself winding down as I sipped at my generous glassful.

The ham hock terrine we both ordered to start was lovely - it almost tasted like "proper" Irish ham (which is cured in brine rather than smoked as is the Aussie way), although there was a little too much aspic for my liking.

My rabbit pie was perfect for a late summer evening - full of flavour and goodness. Eileen's lamb special was three different cuts of lamb on the one plate - a huge serving and all delicious.

Service was attentive and friendly, the food obviously well-chosen from the best ingredients. The menu advised that the jams and chutneys were sourced from the local primary school - now that's fresh and local taken to the extreme!

I sense this place will become a well-worn favourite especially over the winter months with such hearty food and such a warm welcome.

Friday, March 20, 2009

le parisien geelong

15 Eastern Beach Road Geelong

A long lingering lunch with my sister Mena was in order. We had much to catch up on. we headed to Mena's favourite place on a breezy Sunday afternoon, to sit by the water and graze the afternoon away.

I was feeling really ill, with a chest infection picked up in Perth just not going away. I kicked off with two paracetamol and a full-fat Coke to get the heart going, quickly followed by a nice glass (or two) of Austin shiraz - a local red. I was starting to enjoy this.

We both chose the seafood chowder to start, and we were not disappointed. This is one of my favourite soups and it is rare to get a good one anywhere I find. By the time I had soldiered through mine I was feeling much better and wondering how I could fit my main course in.

The waiter had taken a shine to me so our service was impeccable. The owner, a grand-sized Frenchman, also took time to visit each table and chat with the lunchtime crowd. It was a nice vibe and we really felt at home sitting at the window. There was no rush.

An elderly lady came in to lunch alone, nicely dressed up in a navy blue suit complete with hat. Perhaps she had been to church that morning. It seemed to me that she was a regular - maybe she had a favourite dish she had every week. She stayed about an hour and then walked briskly on home along the waterfront in the wind. I want to be like her when I am that age.

My fillet steak Cafe de Paris was huge: topped with sauteed mushrooms, bacon, onions and garlic butter it was a heart attack on a plate but I dug in and mopped up the sauce with chat potatoes. We tried to ignore the complimentary French fries on the table but failed dismally. My defence is that I did my sore throat good with all that salt.

How we managed to leave I do not know. We sat for over four hours putting the world to rights, sipping on our wine and finishing off with a couple of good quality lattes before facing the long drive home. It was comfort food at its best, and a location probably best enjoyed in the autumn or winter months when you want cosiness with your lunch.

At $202 the bill was not cheap, but I can see why it is Mena's favourite and I will find an excuse to accompany her there again!

pee wee's at the point

Alec Fong Lim Drive, East Point Reserve, Darwin

After a full day out exploring the beautiful Litchfield National Park near Darwin, my plans to experience a spectacular sunset over the ocean were scuttled when I had a blow-out on my 4WD in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I still had a faint signal on one mobile phone (how I wished I'd borrowed a satphone from work though) and RAC were soon on their way to help.

Hurtling back to Darwin I could see the sun disappearing fast and I knew my dreams of sipping a glass of wine whilst enjoying the sun melt into the water were gone. Nonetheless, hungry and worried that all the restaurants would be shut by the time I got back to the hotel for a shower, I headed for my original destination, Pee Wee's at the Point.

The sky was almost dark by the time I got there and I could see the lights of Darwin lighting up across the bay. I could imagine how beautiful it would have been an hour earlier. Friendly wait staff showed me to a table with the best night-time view and I settled back with a glass of Henry's 7 shiraz viognier from SA. The wine list was pretty good with lots to choose from by the glass including sparkling shiraz (must remember this for Orlando).

My starter was a single bug tail raviolo with lemon thyme and a tomato confit. It looked innocuous enough but it was divine: I was almost full afterwards.

Having been recommended to eat all the barramundi I could in NT, I chose a pan roasted crispy skin barramundi fillet, marinated in green spice paste, with coral Enoki mushrooms, asparagus, a crispy mudcrab potato cake and sea urchin butter. Couldn't actually tell there was real sea urchin in the butter, but nonetheless the whole dish was fabulous - well balanced, beautifully presented and the fish was falling apart with freshness. The tiny rectangular potato cakes looked innocuous enough: delicious and full of flavour, but very heavy. Despite myself I could not finish them. I am not sure they "went" with the rest of the dish - maybe more of a dumpling idea would have been preferable.

Sitting back with a pot of peppermint tea I could imagine why this is one of the favourite dining spots of Darwin. I will certainly make plans to get here in time for sunset next time I am in town.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

darwin trailer boat club

Atkins Drive, Fannie Bay, Darwin

It's not the most sophisticated dining destination in Darwin, but by god it must have one of the best locations. The Darwin Trailer Boat Club is just a local boating club, with a simple bistro menu at excellent prices. You place your order with the lovely Dan at the cash register in the corner, wait until your number is called then go up and collect your dinner and fill up on salad and vegetables at the self-service counter. Nothing complicated, just good home-cooked food.

We got there in plenty of time for the sunset and sat outside at a trestle table in awe of the spectacular view across Fannie Bay. We could see already that it was going to be an amazing sunset. We bought a bottle of red (served chilled in true NT style), ordered our food and sat back to watch the show.

As the colours changed and the sun hung low in the sky on one of the most perfect St. Patrick's Days I have ever had, we sipped our chilled shiraz and counted our blessings on having been sent here to work.

We were called for our dinner and I filled my plate with extra vegetables. It wasn't gourmet food but with those views it was a perfect end to a perfect evening. Not even the Crocodile Warning on the steps down to the beach could dim my mood.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Red Cross coffee snaps

Our colleague Amanda brought a fresh batch of these amazing biscuits in every morning, a gift from her daughter who kept us stocked up throughout the worst of the workload.

If you use this recipe, please make a donation to the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Appeal - every penny counts!

125g butter, softened, chopped
275g brown sugar
2 tbsp ground coffee
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
110g plain flour
110g self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan forced.
Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and coffee until lightened and fluffy.
Add egg; beat until just combined.
Stir in sifted flours.
Roll teaspoons of mixture into balls; place on baking paper covered trays.
Bake for 10 minutes, stand on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.