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Monday, October 6, 2014

NORA

Melbourne is consistently on point with food trends - instagram-worthy food like fluffy hotcakes accessorised with a colourful array of edible flowers and fresh fruit; frozen yoghurt dispensaries popping up on every corner, both north and south of the river; cold pressed juices and healthy smoothies served in mason jars; and the latest one to start making an appearance on menus - things made with food-grade edible charcoal. Charcoal food products are becoming more mainstream - what, with charcoal brioche buns encasing meat patties, ice creams scooped into charcoal waffle cones; and now, after supplying select cafes for a short while earlier this year, Nora has opened shop in Carlton with a range of their signature charcoal tarts.


While the charcoal shells provide a striking contrast against the various fillings, the charcoal aspect does not literally translate through to the taste of it. Flaky, crumbly with a lovely residual chewiness to it, the shells are incredibly interesting, but owners Tong and Jean aren't shy about experimenting around with the flavours either.


The dark chocolate is unabashed, powerful and bitter with just a hint of sweetness from the honey and sesame crumb.

Honey dark chocolate, sea salt and sesame tart ($5)

The tamarind cream cheese with macerated strawberries mixed through and topped with chopped pistachios.

Tamarind cream cheese and strawberry tart ($5)

Pandan and coconut complement beautifully together, so we all loved this combination for its unadulterated nuttiness with an aromatic sweetness to the flavour.

Coconut pandan tarts ($5)

The lemon was most prominent in flavour with just a hint of spice from the lemongrass and ginger; it was one of the crowd favourites between us for the impeccable harmony of sweet and sour.

Lemon, lemongrass and ginger brûlée tart ($5)

Not only offering these impressive charcoal tarts, there is also a concise savoury breakfast and lunch menu available. A sweet little spot with immensely friendly wait staff, I can envision myself visiting often during the warmer months.



Food:              
Service:          
Value:             

Will I return?
Yes, next time to try the savoury dishes and new flavour combinations.

NORA
156 Elgin St
Carlton VIC 3053
(03) 9041 8644
 

Mon to Fri 7am - 3:30pm
Sat & Sun 8am - 4pm

Nora on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Assaggi Italiani

If you haven't noticed lately, my posts have been sporadic and spanning towards the monthly basis now - a cumulation of getting caught up in work, life and obsessively planning our trip to America at the end of the year. I feel major guilt neglecting my little food baby (my blog, not my stomach. My stomach is always well fed!) but the urge to relax after a long day at work always wins over writing and editing. Still, enjoying good food with loved ones is still a significant aspect of life I'm happily partaking in; and to celebrate our father this year, we decided to take him out to a neighbourhood Italian restaurant. At Assaggi Italiani, we are greeted with upbeat Italian greetings and heavy accented wait staff, while being led up the stairs to a private room for our table of nine.

While my parents are accustomed to the "quantity over quality" type of Italian establishments and would typically baulk at the idea of paying more than what they're used to, Assaggi Italiani was reasonably priced for the quality fare. The pastas are made fresh and on site; apparent from the silky and dainty texture of the fettuccine, with a plentiful array of fresh seafood.

Fettuccine Alla Sirenetta with fresh seafood ($25)

The cavatelli nestled the robust Napoli sauce, and was appropriately seasoned with a hit of saltiness from the pancetta and bacon.

Cavatelli Alla Matriciana ($19.50)

The gnocchi, barely holding their form after baking in the Napoli sauce, was sprinkled with a generous layer of parmesan and mozzerella cheese.

Gnocchi Alla "Nonna Maria" ($20)

The pizzas were cooked in the wood fire oven, allowing a distinct char to envelope in the flavours of the thin, crisp base, just solid enough to hold the ample toppings. While I equally enjoyed all the pizzas, I had a slight preference to the Campagnola for the decadent combination of bocconini, mushrooms, pungent Gorgonzola and pancetta.

Capriciosa - bocconcini, ham off the bone, mushrooms & olives ($18)

Campagnola - bocconini, mushroom, Gorgonzola, pancetta ($18.50)

Amalfi - bocconcini, mixed seafood ($18.50)

Aquolina - bocconcini, bresaola, lemon, parmesan & rocket ($20)

Between the nine of us, there was plenty of food to go around to satisfy the entire table. While the desserts didn't tempt us that night, there were the quintessential Italian desserts available on the menu. The service and food were equally as charming and enjoyable and we wouldn't hesitate to return for another visit.

Food: 
Service: 
Value: 

Will I return?
Yes, a great Italian restaurant not too far from home.

Assaggi Italiani
99 Glenferrie Rd
Malvern VIC 3144
(03) 9500 1624

Tues to Sun 5:30pm - 10pm

Assaggi Italiani on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lazy days in Kyneton, Victoria.

Kyneton is a small and sleepy town, with the locals all know one another and can be seen pulled over on opposite sides of the road and hanging out of their respective car windows having a gab. With a little time before dinner, we soaked in the Winter sun at Monsieur Pierre while enjoying a raspberry and coconut slice and their signature Gypsy spice hot chocolate. Now, I've never really understood the fascination with chilli chocolate but now may have been converted with a simple sip of this drink. Rich, thick chocolate liquid with a slight spice lingering on the tongue - an ideal pick me up after a long drive.

Gypsy spice hot chocolate with a raspberry and coconut slice

Monsieur Pierre
143 Mollison St
Kyneton VIC 3444
(03) 5422 1136
 

Mon to Fri 6:30am - 6pm
Sat & Sun 8am - 4pm

Monsieur Pierre on Urbanspoon

The reason for our trip to Kyneton was to celebrate a milestone together. We've never been the present-giving type, preferring to indulge our senses and enjoy a little getaway over anything else. Anything to take us from the reality of the day to day working grind. Originally, we thought of heading back to Tasmania (too lazy) or Beechworth for Michael Ryan's The Provenance (closed in August), so eventually we decided to drive out to Kyneton in the Macedon Ranges for Annie Smithers. Annie Smithers came highly recommended from my sister who rated it as one of her favourite dining experiences in Australia. It is a familiar, warm and inviting space and the staff are as equally charming.


We are looked after by one half of the team behind Annie Smithers, Michelle, while the other half of the team, Tim, mans the kitchen. Upon her recommendation, we order a bottle of the 2010 Pinot Noir from Cobaw Ridge, situated just thirty minutes out of town.



A complimentary starter of parsnip and fennel soup with goats cheese was an excellent stimulant to get our appetites going.

Parsnip and fennel soup with goats cheese (complimentary)

I was intrigued by the idea of lamb brains and couldn't help myself ordering it for my entrée. While there didn't have a distinct or prominent offal flavour to it, it's all about the contrast of the crisp exterior and smooth and creamy texture inside. The celeriac and apple remoulade lifting from the creaminess of the brains and shards of pancetta providing just the right amount of saltiness.

Hazelnut crumbed lamb brains, celeriac & apple remoulade, pancetta and garden rocket ($18)

Mr A's cheese soufflé would satisfy any cheese lovers' appetite. Underneath the caramelised crust, a mixture of chewy and oozing Gruyere cheese, perfectly complemented by the fresh nashi and walnut salad, studded with nuggets of pungent gorgonzola.

Twice cooked Gruyere cheese soufflé, nashi, tatsoi, gorgonzola and walnut salad ($18)

The confit duck leg falls apart like any good confit meat should, but the feature is the tender slices of smoked duck breast. With a lovely crisp skin, the flavour of the duck breast is robust and delectable.

Confit free range duck leg, brined & smoked duck breast, parsnip puree, broccoli shoots, witlof, pickled quince, jus, vincotto ($36)

My market fresh snapper lacks the promised crisp skin, but the fish is cooked just right. I couldn't get enough of the chunky creamed leek sauce which melded beautifully with the sweet flesh of the snapper without overwhelming it.

Market fresh snapper, creamed leek, cauliflower beignets & herb salad ($36)

We neglect to realise that main courses are complemented with a garden salad, but regardless, we are immersed in our mains that both the baby cos salad and garden salad remain mostly untouched.

Baby cos, cabbage, pear & Redesdale walnut salad with sherry vinegar dressing ($9) & house salad

After our years together, I can pretty much guess what Mr A will choose when dessert time comes. Cutting into the chocolate molten pudding, there is no trickle of chocolate liquid which worries us slightly; but our fears are quickly put to rest after a spoonful - rich, gooey and an incredibly light texture that just melts away.


Dark chocolate pudding, honey cream, honey & hazelnut ice cream and hazelnut praline ($16)

My panna cotta is dotted with a plethora of vanilla beans although I'm not completely sold by the combination of the sheep's milk yoghurt sorbet with the heady brandied kumquats - finding the combination almost jarring. Singularly, the elements are fantastic although ultimately, I appreciate the silky panna cotta and the fresh sheeps yoghurt sorbet.

Vanilla bean panna cotta, brandied kumquats, gingerbread & sheep's milk yoghurt sorbet ($16)

Ultimately, our meal and service are both impeccable and we walk out feeling fully satiated and buzzed from our experience.

Food: 8.5/10
Service: 9/10
Value: 8/10
Will I return? Yes, in a heartbeat.

Annie Smithers Bistrot
72 Piper St
Kyneton VIC 3444
(03) 5422 2039


Thurs to Sun: lunch from noon & dinner from 6pm - late

Annie Smithers Bistrot & Produce on Urbanspoon

After a comfortable night's stay in our beautiful room at the Mollisons, waking up to crisp country air was a refreshing change. Our plans were to head back home that morning, but not without first having breakfast. The reinvigoration of Piper Stret in Kyneton has seen expansion of Kyneton's dining scene to include a few new cafes. Duck Duck Goose & Larder offers a gourmet selection of fresh local produce as well as pantry goods and curated home wares. The adjoining cafe offers pastries, pies, ready-made rolls and an array of breakfast dishes.



Piccolo latte and unfiltered ginger ale

I've always had a bias for potato in any form - mash, baked, scalloped, et al; but when it comes to sweet potato, it reaches exponential proportions. Crisp sweet potato rosti with pools of egg yolk intermingling with the punchy harissa hollandaise, sharpness from the juicy tomatoes and sourdough to soak it all up - sensational.

Sweet potato rosti with poached eggs, slow roasted tomatoes & a smoky harissa hollandaise ($17.90)

Mr A's pumpkin bruschetta was a healthier breakfast choice, managing to still delight the taste buds with the appetising combination of pumpkin and beetroot relish, goats cheese and candied pancetta.

Pumpkin bruschetta with goats cheese, rocket,  beetroot relish and candied pancetta ($15.90)

Ending our trip on a high note, we had only fond memories of Kyneton on our drive back home. I would highly recommend a weekend getaway to Kyneton - a quiet and delightful town only an hours drive from Melbourne's CBD.

Food: 
Service: 
Value: 

Will I return?
 Yes, a sweet spot with wholesome dishes.

Duck Duck Goose & Larder
17-19 Piper St
Kyneton VIC 3444
(03) 5422 1653


Mon to Sat 8:30am - 5:30pm
Sun 10am - 5pm

Duck Duck Goose & Larder on Urbanspoon

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