Food court folly: yes.
But I was not expecting
Sugar in the broth.
Suburban corner shop
Can have amphora.
Well, it was OK
The spinach was the best thing
Pay at the cashier
Underneath the gym
Chicken rice needs more flavour
White fluorescent lights
I moved up to Sydney about 4 months ago, and big city life has pretty much sucked the free time and creative impulse out of me to continue writing blog posts.
But I’m about nothing if not adaptation, so what I’m going to do to adapt to this change in lifestyle is this: the format of half-eaten will change. Expect things so be shorter, sharper, and you’re only going to get pictures if it’s so impressive that it warrants it.
Stay tuned, because half-eaten it’s about to be back; but not as you know it.
FRIED. TRIPE. I CAN’T EVEN. Need to go back for more.
Disclaimer: The booze which features in this post was supplied for free by WineSelectors. Make of that what you will.
If we’re friends and we’ve gone out to dinner together, you’ll probably know that I don’t like pinot noir. Because if we’ve gone out for dinner together, I’ve more likely than not ordered pork, I’ve probably ordered it for you too, and you’ve probably jumped to the conclusion that you should drink pinot with your pork. At which point, I’ll scrunch up my face, and declare that I don’t drink pinot. At least not Australian pinot. (I was coerced into trying – and subsequently liking – a French grand cru bourgogne at the Royal Mail Hotel a while ago.)
Anyway, when WineSelectors offered to send me some wine to try and review on this blog, I thought, “Free booze!” and then immediately caveatted that I was going to be bluntly honest about what I thought of the wine. To which they replied, “Well, that’s fine. Because you’ll be choosing the wines yourself.” Which basically meant that I was a bit screwed, because I don’t know that much about wine, I just know what I like. One of the things I know that I like is viognier, so I included a bottle of the Hugh Hamilton Loose Cannon Viognier in my order.
And though I probably am an alcoholic, I’m not an anti-social alcoholic. So I invited a couple of friends over to dinner to help me ‘taste’ the wines (read ‘finish’). And because it wasn’t a Friday night, eating wasn’t cheating, so I made dinner. A roast rack of pork, no less. Oh yeah, that rant about pinot before wasn’t that random. This is what the rack looked like before (that’s salt, pepper, rosemary and sumac on there):
… and after! (After 20 minutes in an oven on max, followed by an hour at 160c.)
We had some green beans with goat’s cheese, a cannellini bean, pea and cavolo nero mash, and I made an onion jam.
Damn I love it when meat blushes at me.
But yeah, so, the wine. I discovered a few things about this Loose Cannon Viognier.
- It doesn’t really have any bouquet when it comes out of the fridge. This does change as it comes closer to room temperature, at which point it smells vaguely citrus-like.
- It’s DAMN FRUITY. (I mean that in a good way.)
- It doesn’t go well with hommus. (We had nibbles before dinner proper.)
- Mr J claimed he could taste quince in the wine, but I think that was more likely to do with the quince paste he was slathering on his crackers.
- The wine is kind of savoury, with orange notes.
- It’s pretty good with pork!
Knox Lane, Melbourne Central shopping centre, Melbourne CBD
Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for this food. Lord of the Fries gave it to me for free. Or maybe I sold a little piece of my soul for it. You decide.
I’m a pretty rampant carnivore. Anyone who knows me reasonably well knows that I enjoy eating animals; probably more so than most people, and probably more than is healthy for me. So when Lord of the Fries (a vegetarian enterprise) sent me an email inviting me to test out their Eco City Burger, I was pretty skeptical, and instantly told twitter as much. To their credit, they responded in good humour, and well, that sort of won me over enough to agree to try the burger.
I remember the first time I had Lord of the Fries. I was drunk, it was well past midnight on Chapel St, and it seemed a better option than Pie Face. (I have an irrational hatred of the Pie Face chain, but that’s a story for another time.) I vaguely remember having fries and nuggets, and thinking to myself that the fries were underwhelming, because they’re a bit floppy – an opinion I stand by to this day – but the nuggets were surprisingly good, for nuggets which aren’t made (at least in part) from meat.
Cut forward to earlier this week, when my colleague Mr E and I wandered down to the Melbourne Central hole-in-the-wall Lord of the Fries in the midst of the stifling heat wave lured by the promise of free burgers. I, of course, had the Eco City Burger, and since I wasn’t paying and the PR lady told me I could, I ordered up a bit, adding some onion rings and one of the chilli cheese poppers to the order.
The Eco City Burger is the classic LotF vegie patty, with lettuce, beetroot relish, pickles and aioli. At first glance, I wasn’t particularly impressed. One little piece of advice i have for LotF is step up your bun game. Seriously, this was the sort of bun I’d expect to find in 12 packs on the bottom shelf of a supermarket bakery section. An unyielding plasticky exterior pretty much meant even though the actual bread was soft enough, you wouldn’t know it. Think about it: the bun is the first thing your mouth comes in contact with when you eat a burger. So come on guys, don’t fall down at the first hurdle!
But let’s move on to the insides. All in all, it’s not bad. I’ll concede that for a vegie burger (though it’s more TVP than vegie?) this is pretty good. The texture of the patty is pretty meat-like; it falls apart like a meat burger would if it were just on the rare side of medium. My one issue with the patty is that it was too salty. It’s almost as if they were trying to compensate for the umami meat flavour by just adding more salt. Like a Christian apologist with something to hide. And it just doesn’t work that way, people.
The beetroot relish was bright in colour and flavour, and a smart way to include it in the burger. I hate how I often have half a slice of beetroot hanging out the back end of the burger, clinging for dear life before it splats on the plate, spraying its life force all over my white t-shirt (of course it was white). The relish provided enough flavour without being so plentiful as to ooze ungraciously out the back end.
Yep, that visual segue was intentional.
Onion rings! With the ‘Belgian’ mayonnaise – what I’m sure @thatjessho would call sperm sauce. These were pretty fantastic. If you’ve tried onion rings at Hungry Jack’s before, you haven’t tried real onion rings. The LotF ones are the real deal – actual rings of onion, crumbed and fried until golden and crispy. The sweetness of the onion and the crispiness of the crumb are tot- WAIT! THAT’S WHAT THE BURGER IS MISSING!
Time to mod the burger, to make it better. The sweetness of the onion balances out the massively salty patty, and the crumb makes the burger, well, not mushy.
WINNING. The burger was actually great like this. So I recommend if you’re going to have a LotF burger, shell out the extra $5.95 (WHAT!?) for the onion rings.
Burgers are kind of like gay sex: often messy afterwards. But worth it.
I know I’ve been pretty slack with the blogging this year, but as it’s the last day, I figure I should make an effort and do that thing that we all love to do at the end of the year: reminisce. So here’s my top 10 food things/events/places for 2012, in no particular order.
1. Ji Ji Wonton Noodles – we discovered these on our holiday, and I’ve been trying to recreate them ever since. I think I’m getting close.
2. The black sticky rice pudding at Thien An – a hidden Footscray gem, and worthy of a visit after dinner elsewhere.
3. Poonami – a trip down the street turned into a trip down memory lane, into my past life in an Australian Chinese restaurant.
4. Making paté from scratch – so easy, and so amazing. Impress your friends with this recipe from Bon Appetit.
5. Messina gelato – so this isn’t really that new to Sydneysiders, but I discovered it for the first time in 2012, and it’s probably one of my favourite things in Sydney. Go the figs poached in marsala and cherry flavours.
6. Obnoxious Thursdays. You know who you ams, ladies.
7. Experimenting with curing meat. This year, I made bresaola, pork prosciutto, and duck prosciutto.
8. A second tour of duty. I returned to Viet Nam after three years; revisiting old haunts and discovering new places. The fresh calamari rice paper rolls on Phu Quoc island was a revelation.
9. Xi hong shi chao ji dan – I’m a shame upon my ancestors, because it’s taken me 32 years to discover this Chinese ‘delicacy’. Big thanks to @carryon_JW to introducing it to me.
10. Coffee (in general) – this year, I started drinking coffee again, after about 7 years of being a non-coffee drinker. I’d like to thank all the tattooed baristas of Melbourne for helping me rediscover my love affair with caffeine.
Here’s wishing you all a happy, tasty and safe 2013!
110 Hopkins St, Footscray
Phone: 9687 0421
There’s few greater things in this world than food on sticks. A thing that @carryon_JW and I agree on. So after an exciting but long day out for his birthday, we stopped in at OCB for some chuar (lamb skewers, Western Chinese style).
@carryon_JW spent four years living in Beijing, so to him, chuar has a special place in his heart. OK, that’s an overstatement; in his belly. It’s funny, though. Even though I’m the one with the Chinese heritage, he claims the authoritative right to declare how authentic a Chinese dish is; given that his Mandarin puts mine to shame – so he often does the ordering – perhaps this isn’t so funny after all. Therefore I was a little nervous to suggest we try this place on his birthday. But it’s local, and it’s not Vietnamese, Ethiopian, or Cantonese, and I’d been keen to try it for a while, so it kind of happened by default.
Something else that happens by default just about whenever I got to a Chinese – Chinese as in Northern/Shanghai/Sichuan, as opposed to Cantonese – restaurant, is ordering this cucumber dish. It’s essentially cucumber with salt, oil and a metric butt-load of garlic. OCB throws some coriander, sugar and MSG in for good measure, in case your taste buds weren’t paying attention.
Ordering a cold dish or two is always a good move at a Northern Chinese restaurant, because it gives you something to snack on while you’re waiting for the other dishes to be cooked.
The next few things to arrive were the various things on sticks. The classic chuar were pretty great. Not as meaty as the Uighur-style ones I’ve had at Tarim in Malvern, but expertly spiced and juicy all the same. JW enjoyed his birthday chuar, as you can see. He also enjoyed the satellite TV broadcast of this crazy Chinese dating show, which sees male contestants choose from a pool of 24 women (some inexplicably dressed up in traditional minority garb), who in turn can elect to accept or reject his interest based on highly stylised video clips in which his friends and family give testimonials about various aspects of his personality (and earning potential). The funniest segment was where the male contestant was clearly tongzhi, even if it wasn’t explicitly acknowledged.
It’s not a birthday without a birthday food coma, so we also ordered some more substantial dishes. There was a ‘fish-flavoured’ eggplant claypot on the left – probably the most delicious version of this dish I’ve ever eaten – and a beef brisket and tomato claypot on the right (that was just a bit meh).
It was OK lah.
This, however, was DIRICIOUS!
It’s not a birthday without a birthday food coma, so we also ordered some dumplings. These were pretty great, though I’m ashamed to say we couldn’t finish them all. The skins were nice and thick, in that doughy Northern style, and the filling was well seasoned, with a decent amount of vegetable and herb matter. I’m often disappointed by how just plain meaty some dumplings are. I mean come on, where’s the skill in just using minced meat?
The chilli oil at OCB – which I’m fairly sure is home-made – is nice and smoky, and the sesame seeds give the flavour a nice roundness, so it’s not as sharply hot as some chilli oils can often be.
So if you’re looking for a (cheap!) happy place in which to induce a most satisfactory birthday food coma, definitely give OCB a try.
I should note that last time I went back, the staff were a little run off their feet, because they sadly participated in one of those EVIL group shopping deals. Hopefully this doesn’t ruin them, like it has other small businesses. I know I’ll be back, though!