A night to Gather at Pope Joan …

IMG_2460Seasonal eating is something I have been actively striving to do for many years now. I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration that champions this way of living both as a shopper and gardener, and I must admit that River Cottage had a lot to do with me adopting this attitude.

I was so inspired by its simple philosophy of being in tune with the seasons that I often wished I lived in a River Cottage of my own. So when our local eating haunt, Pope Joan, announced they would be hosting a three course feast to celebrate the launch of Gill Meller’s new cookbook Gather, I could not wait to snap up tickets for dear husband and I to attend. And I’m so glad I did.

I’d watched Gill many times on River Cottage and was always inspired by his simple, yet rustic take on cooking, so it was quite a treat to meet him in the flesh. I must admit I had a bit of a fangirl moment as he autographed my copy of his book. He was so lovely and obliging, thanking me for coming along to the launch, and all I could say was how much I was in awe of the honey cake we just devoured for dessert which seemed to make him smile.

And our hosts at Pope Joan really did his recipes justice. Their interpretation of all the dishes served up throughout the evening was absolutely delicious, as was the perfectly matched wines by Fowles. My favourites, apart from the honey cake, would have to be the beef shin and stuffed squash with fennel and barley. No words can describe their deliciousness other than, yum. Each mouthful was met with a sigh of absolute bliss.

Now, I cannot wait to sit down and have a proper read of Gather so I can cobble together a list of recipes to attempt, especially since winter has officially arrived and the craving for comfort food is strong. And judging by what I’ve seen so far I am confident that Gill’s dishes will undoubtedly keep our bellies both warm and filled as the mercury continues to drop this winter.

 

 

Cheesy like Sunday morning …

Autumn in Melbourne is proving to be a little schizophrenic of late. This past Friday alone was winter like, rainy and bleak to say the least, and yet today the sun had decided to grace us with its warmth. So, with this sudden change, dear husband and I felt it was enough of an incentive to get out and about for a spot of breakfast at Toasta and Co. and enjoy the sun whilst it lasted.

Toasta and Co. has been on my must try wish list for sometime now. Starting off as a food truck and now a bricks and mortar cafe located in a lovely leafy spot on Adderley Street in West Melbourne, the cheese toasties they are known for were well worth the wait. Dear husband and I decided to get our teeth into the Brekky toastie … a three cheese, fried egg, streaky bacon, relish and rocket concoction that hit the spot perfectly and with a cup of delicious Allpress coffee it was a satisfying and very tasty start to the day.

And since we had our little bundle of fur with us, Master Hudson, we capped off our morning outing with a stroll around the surrounding neighbourhood to take in the beautiful colours of the season.

Hail, Tomato!

  

I love tomatoes and have been growing them for years. It’s such a humble staple in my garden so the thought of a festival dedicated to this wonderful ingredient is always going to grab my attention and time. So without hesitation, dear husband and I trekked to Edendale Community Farm in Eltham today to help celebrate the Melbourne Tomato Festival’s second offering. 

Like last years inaugural event, there were many local producers on hand to share their knowledge and give us an opportunity to purchase some of the goodies they had on offer. Other noteworthy aspects of the festival included cooking demonstrations from the likes of celebrity chef’s Guy Grossi, Karen Martini, and Matt Wilkinson as well as passata and mozzarella making workshops for those interested in making their own.

As an avid gardener, I found the in conversation pieces highlighting the art of organic composting from the Diggers Club, and the informative session from Rooftop Honey on the importance of bees a particular bonus. But on a whole there really was just about something for everyone … and with the sun beaming and the endless amounts of yummy treats along the way it was a lovely way to spend a lazy Sunday in the Summer sun.  

   
    
   

In a pickle, in a jam

Gewurzhaus would have to be one of my favourite haunts. It’s like an Aladdin’s cave, brimming with all sorts of spice treasures that really do encourage you to explore and expand your tasting palette. And the aroma that permeates the air in this store is nothing short of amazing. You can’t help but feel inspired when you enter this place. 

So today, while I usually would’ve been enjoying a bit of a morning sleep in, I opted for an early morning tram run to Toorak to take in Gewurzhaus’ “In a pickle, in a jam” class at their cooking school. And I am so glad I did. 

Being a preserve novice the class was a perfect introduction into the art of preserving as our group was expertly guided by preserve queen extraordinaire the delightful Caroline Gray from A bit of Jam and Pickle. The class was not only fun and interactive, it was most importantly full of little nuggets of information that demystified the process and will definitely make my at home efforts a little easier when I do start making my own preserves as Autumn nears. 

So with my new found recipes and a lovely selection of preserves in hand to enjoy at home, it was a wonderful and productive way to spend my Saturday morning and has definitely encouraged me to consider taking other classes the school has to offer … their upcoming pretzel and sausage making class looks very enticing! 

Here’s a sample of the goodies we collectively created….I cannot wait to savour and enjoy every mouthful, starting with the Roasted Tomato Relish and the Brinjal Pickle, heavenly!

   
    
    
    

Christmas in July …

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Pope Joan

Winter is well and truly here and what better way to soak up the cold than to enjoy a little bit of Christmas in July. One of our local eats, Pope Joan, has been embracing the comforts of the season with themed menus every month to get us through winter. So with that in mind dear husband and I decided to indulge in their July offerings.

While I had every intention of indulging in the Christmas themed three course menu, once I was faced with the sheer volume of food on offer it proved to be a bit much for me to enjoy as a weeknight meal.  It was perhaps best reserved as a weekend indulgence instead, so dear husband and I have vowed to return and experience it before the month is out.

But in the meantime the meals we decided on did not disappoint. Dear husband enjoyed a lamb shoulder dish that was served with a tasty cauliflower gratin and some crispy kale. I on the other hand indulged in Pope Joan’s signature Chicken Kiev and winter slaw dish and we both picked at some sides of heirloom carrots and thickly cut chips. Yum comes to mind, as does pure bliss when describing it. It really embodied the ultimate in comfort food … it was like the perfect, most comforting hug one could get and I enjoyed every bite. And with the rain pouring steadily outside as we ate, it just added to the atmosphere of a cozy evening indeed.

kiev
Image courtesy of goodfood.com.au

Sugar, spice and all things nice

I enjoy cooking. There is something about winter that makes me crave being in the kitchen whipping up cakes, preserves, hearty soups, roasts and other yummy comfort foods that just add to the wonder of the season. So to get me inspired I paid a visit to a couple of my favourite haunts in town … Gewurzhaus for a little bit of spice, and Koko Black for that all important sugar to get me through the chilly days ahead. And here are the spoils of my outing … now where to begin? I think the chocolate, while I ponder my next move …

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Autumn days and a leisurely lunch at the French Milk Bar

Hudson amongst the leaves in the yard
Hudson amongst the leaves in the yard

There has been a very distinct crispness in the air of late signalling that autumn has well and truly arrived here in lovely Melbourne town. My maple tree is dropping leaves as we speak and Hudson as usual is revelling in play amongst the fallen leaves that are a melange of autumn hues scattered about the yard.

It really is a delight to see, and being my favourite time of the year there is nothing like putting on the warm woollens and getting out and about to soak up the flavour of the season. So with that thought in mind dear husband and I with puppy in tow decided to wander down to a local haunt for some seasonal eats.

The French Milk Bar is a relatively new feature in our locale, and it’s certainly becoming one of my firm favourites for al fresco lunching especially since most outings we usually have Hudson with us. We have certainly gotten used to dining outdoors because of him and that’s ok, he’s a keen people watcher but most importantly is a very well-behaved pup which makes cafe dining so much easier. The fact he is too cute for his own good usually translates into lots of pats and smiles from passer-bys that have taken a shine to him and it’s hard not to with a face like that.

Must get the leaf!
Must get the leaf!

But getting back to the treats we enjoyed at the French Milk Bar, they certainly hit the spot hunger wise. With a short and simple menu to ponder, we settled on duck a l’orange and a hearty french onion soup with Gruyère toast and below is a peek at those dishes. All in all the food and atmosphere did not disappoint and I cannot wait to spend another lazy afternoon there for some more yummy goodness. Bon appetit!

Special du jour - duck a l'orange
Special du jour – duck a l’orange
Deliciously hearty french onion soup
Deliciously hearty french onion soup
Creme cafe s'il vous plait
Cafe creme s’il vous plait
Happy customer - enjoying the view from Stuart's lap.
Happy customer – enjoying the view from Stuart’s lap.

And off to the farm we go …

imageOne of my favourite spots to visit here in Melbourne is the Collingwood Children’s Farm. Once a month it hosts a farmers market that has now become a must do on my calendar, come rain or shine. The farm is a serene escape, and only being a twenty minute drive from home it truly is a little piece of the country right in the heart of the city.

On today’s little expedition, dear husband and I, with Hudson in tow, began our day by enjoying a lovely and heart warming breakfast at the Farm Cafe. I must say that it makes me feel good to know exactly where my food is coming from and who has nurtured it, and knowing that all of the produce used is either sourced freshly from the farm or from local producers makes the meal just that little more special.

But one thing that always delights me when we do go to the farm is when we have puppy with us. Watching Hudson in action is always a delight. Whether he’s making lots of new furry and human friends, I never tire of seeing him look so intrigued and puzzled by all the farm animals and smells … It’s a funny sight indeed. A perfect way to start the weekend that’s for sure even if the weather hasn’t been so glorious, it’s still a worthwhile excursion nevertheless …

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Hudson waiting patiently for breakfast!
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Yummy fuel to keep me going…
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Hudson sizing up the goat…
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Stuart wrangling Hudson as we explore the farm ….
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Hudson observing the chickens…
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A beautiful peacock is just one of the many lovely residents of the farm.
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A gaggle of geese who seem to be in a hurry…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bowery to Williamsburg

On my travels today I popped into the Bowery to Williamsburg for lunch and as usual I am always delighted by this place. It is such a lovely nod to the Big Apple not just because the fit out resembles that of a subway station but because of the amazingly accurate manner in which this place has been able to replicate the deli’s that New York are famous for … it definitely makes me nostalgic for my time there and today’s offering transported me back there the minute I stepped into the establishment.

So with my roast truffle mushroom sandwich on rye in hand, coupled with a side of winter warming oozy mac and cheese, some pretzels and of course a dill pickle to add to the mix, it was the meal that just kept on giving. And the best bit is that it is a delicious slice of NYC without having to pay for the plane ride!

This way to the Bowery ...
From Flinders Street there is no mistaking that this is the way to the Bowery …
Lunch is served!
Lunch is served!
The menu board ...
Decisions decisions … too many goodies to choose from on the menu  board!