Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I am practicing linking.

Here's Lisa's blog and here is Caroline's (cos they told me/offered to show me how) - thanks!
I am loving myself sick right now. I am Queen of the Internets. Both those links work! (No thanks to me of course, but schweeeet!)
It's ridiculously easy now I know what that symbol is (it doesn't look very linky to me) but I would never have worked out the code business in HTML.
Miss T advises that normal broadcasts will begin again shortly.
When she has adequately practiced her new skills.
And stopped crowing.
Thank you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happily spruiking!, or: Miss Ellie's recipes for healthiness inside and out

There are some people who, like me, rest on their laurels a bit when it comes to healthiness. I prefer to think that being vegan in and of itself gives me multiple gold health stars.

Naturally this is rubbish. It gives me a couple of gold stars because of what I don’t eat (no dairy and associated pus-drinking; no red meat and associated increased risk of bowel and colon cancer; no chicken and associated risk of hormone bizarreness; no fish and associated risk of mercury poisoning and general stinkiness) as well as a nice clean conscience. But I can always tarnish and deplete those benefits through the other things that I choose (drinking beer, eating crisps, not exercising enough) thus drastically reducing my potential vegan-health-smugness factor.

Other people, however, are just healthy all over. They eat well, they exercise well, they feel well … generally I am quite resentful about these people because I am jealous of their motivation, determination, glowing good looks even at 7am on a Saturday morning, and nice healthy insides. However in this case I am delighted to introduce my friend Miss Ellie (cook, boot-camper and general health person extraordinaire) who came along to the last potluck and blew everyone away with her incredible food.

I was asked to source Miss Ellie’s recipe for beetroot, carrot and quinoa salad with pomegranate dressing, and here it is along with the recipe for her curried cauliflower balls and a piece of exciting news … a cook book! In the works! Ethical, enviro, sustainable, wholefoods and good for both the inside and the outside of the tummy … stay tuned!

Here are the first two instalments of Miss Ellie’s recipes… an' ain’t they purdy?

You might have to select and enlarge pictures ... but it'll be worth it. Promise.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The East Brunswick Club, or: a cheap'n'cheerful Monday night on Lygon Street

Aaah, the serenity. A Coopers Red, a vegan pub meal, and a good solid gasbag.

Lisa and I availed ourselves of the East Brunswic
k Club's $10 Monday specials tonight, polishing off our meals along with a full conversation ranging from work to puppies to crusty vegans to food politics.

My first visit to the East was on my last birthday, where I was unable to enjoy the meal because I had already consumed: a full cooked breakfast at Delish; a sausage roll from La Panella; various donuts, slices and tarts also from La Panella; some crisps I think; and a couple of beers. By the time I got to dinner, nothing was going to fit in easily and nothing was going to set my tastebuds on fire. So it was some self-induced disappointment that I ate that night, even though (bless!) Buzz, my parents and Miss T Junior had all ordered vegan in solidarity.

Tonight I was thrilled and relived to discover how wrong I was. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

My parma was chewily textured
with a soft mouthfeel, topped with very creditable cheese (Cheezly perhaps?) and red sauce (now that's accurate food writing!).

In the style of all genuine northern suburbs pub grub, it was plonked atop a serving of chips with a balsamic-wetted garden salad which included two whole quarters of tomato and three slices of cucumber. Don't get me wrong here - that's exactly what I wanted, what I went for and that's what I damn well got!

I ate it all, to the point of insisting that the waiter return my empty plate to our table so that I could snap it as proof - I'm sure by now that the staff at the East have made the broad conjectural point that vegan = food mania.* *(photograph not available. Read: it turned out quite badly).

Lisa's chicken burger was, I think, made of a similar mock-meat but it was more heavily encrusted and had not-too-little, not-too-much herbed mayo on the bun.

It was even in a chicken-breasty kind of shape, as was my parma, which was a little disconcerting but quite authentic-looking in its own odd way. She kindly let me dig in fingers fist ... all in the name of blogging of course.

I've said before that I'm a savoury girl, but who am I to walk on by when chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake is on offer? I am no-one, Master Cheesecake, just the wind amongst the trees. On my first visit I did in fact display the idiocy to do just that (remembering the breakfast, La Panella etc etc), so this time here it came. Frustratingly, the lights were turned down from perfectly normal Monday night-ish to ooh-la-la-ish just as I spooned off the end to snap the inside, so we will have to make do with an external shot only.

The cheesecake was more than I thought a silken tofu creation could be (I mean, c'mon. Silken tofu into a sweet dessert tart? I pity the fool!). It was firm, silky, moist and full of real peanut buttery flavour. Lisa would have preferred a more crumbly base, so I leave that judgment with the connoisseur. I just want to have a crack at making it now!

I am pretty gosh-darned impressed now, and am salivating in a none-too-attractive manner at the thought of the new Asian 'duck' and salad dish.

So what's the greatest about the East? No, it's not the most cutting edge, healthiest, most inventive vegan food. But sometimes, or even quite a lot if you're like me, you just want a big, hearty, straightforward pub meal with chips and sauce and you want it to take up most of a big plate and you want a beer to go with it and you want to eat it in a real pub and you want it right now and thanks to the East, these simple pleasures are back on the menu for vegans.

The East Brunswick Club: 280 Lygon Street, East Brunswick. Ph 9482 7033.

Lisa's blog:
(Has anyone noticed that I can't do that cool linkage where you just go "here" or the person's name to link to them? Probably you have. Probably you have assumed that I am an involuntary Luddite and have the intellectual capacity of a cat. Probably you are right. Probably, or even definitely, I will find out how to do it tomorrow and actually be able to properly link and credit all the people I talk about).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Habib Wholefoods, or: I CityCircle it, do some exciting shoppering, and get a bit of a shock

A couple of months ago I City Circled it around from work to Flinders Organics, where I had fallen into an obsession with their Spicy Cajun Salad. I was looking for a few things – precisely what escapes me now but I assume it was of the veganny variety – but upon picking up and putting back a number of things, I realised that there was virtually nothing on my list to be had.

A man approached me and asked what I was looking for. I reluctantly told him (whatever it was; maybe Tofutti slices?), not really wanting to discuss my shoppering choices, and he told me that he had just taken over the shop in the last few days and they were looking to build up their product range. I had some reservations, given that he had never heard of whatever-it-was-which-was-common and spelled it
incorrectly, and then I City Circled it back to work and haven’t really been back since.

This lunchtime I wanted Spicy Cajun. Having read in my Guide that Flinders Organics is now Habib Wholefoods, I prepared for a little stickybeak.

Oh hooray for the Cheezly on the shelves! Hooray for the ginormous range of Tofutti ice-cream in the fridge! Hooray for the agave nectar and the light and dark syrup versions too! Hooray for the vegan ready-meals and the range of vegan waffles! Hooray for the Parmazano which I’ve been dying to try since I read about it on aduki online!

I made more purchases than planned, gleefully snatching things of shelves as I found them, and was very impressed with the excellent and expanded range of products now stocked.

I went to get my Spicy Cajun. As the lady was piling it up (to my cries of “Oh no, more even! More! Nom nom nom!”) we chatted and I mentioned how great the range was. She said that they had tried hard to get the range expanded, so I, with my vegan-shopper hat on, was particularly flowery and complimentary about all the things I had found.

When my bill was totted up, the salad which I had so encouragingly had made piled higher, came to $18.84. Whereas previously the salads were sold per container, they were now priced by weight and I a) had failed to check; and b) decided to just suck it up and learn for next time.

Habib Wholefoods: Shop2, 260 Flinders Street, Melbourne, 3000. Ph. 9639 5515.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

PastaPigs, or: Lolo's cashew cream pasta

I recently read ZuckerBaby’s fabulous blog in which she said that her fallback meal position was pasta-and-(ingredient). I am also of the pasta-is-my-friend/mother/secret-lover cooking variety, but unlike ZB I am rarely bold enough to venture outside the Holy Pasta Trinity of tomato-onion-garlic with bits of other things, usually eggplant or zucchini, thrown in. With that in mind, I have every intention of making her lemon sauce penne very very soon … I must be brave! (Although lately I have become totally enamoured of tinned cherry tomatoes … I feel like I’m having an affair with something new, young and saucy.)

But recently I did get very excited by a new recipe by Lolo at – cashew cream tomato sauce. Buzz and I gave it a whirl with mixed results but many plans to try, try again. The recipe itself was fantastic, I should add – it was mostly our own inexperience that led us astray.

Our first problem sprang up when I decide to use El Crappo the Food Processor (see previous posts on the deranged activities of my food processor and its massive, uncleanable bowl) to make up the cashew cream sauce. Naturally, the bowl was far too big and so it took much much too long for me to properly mash up the cashews, which meant that the timing of pasta-to-sauce-preparation was all shot.

The sauce did taste great raw though – the recipe calls for one large, cored and roughly chopped tomato, and the fresh taste really came through the cashews in a way that tinned tomatoes never can (excuse poor tinning/canning punning).

We put the sauce in Magic Pan to sauté up, and added a little extra olive oil to soften it. We added the cooked pasta to Magic Pan to mix through and coat, something that makes everything look very professional and taste very delicious but that I rarely
do in a desperate attempt to get myself to reduce the pasta-to-sauce ratio and thus, hopefully, also my calories consumed-to-calories burnt ratio.

At this point we both peered at the contents of Magic Pan, decided it was just not enough food for us, and began discussing what else we could make afterwards. Hence this post’s title: Pasta Pigs. We really do eat a lot.

Upon serving, I substituted coriander for Lolo’s suggestion of fresh basil, mainly because I had none. It was a good call to swap, though, as the smooth and creamy sauce really needs a pungent herby punch to amp up the taste-sizzle factor. Buzz was keen to blend the coriander into the cashew cream sauce next time, but I’m not so convinced that this would deliver the necessary kick. It might be good to do as Lolo suggests with the basil and tear it up and mix through, rather than just dump it on top as we did! I also added a little more black pepper than called for, having been seduced by the addition of this new condiment to my pasta-garnishing repertoire.

Although this dish might be prepared very quickly by some, for those of us who abhor washing up of any kind, the addition of food processing to any cookery adds an extra element of complexity all on its own. I would prefer to make this dish very slowly on a Saturday night (God what a slow life I lead!) with a nice cold beer, sit down to a long dinner and chat, and round it off by leaving the washing up until morning.

Horse Racing Kills.

Worth reading before you frock up. Really.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

FGY Art Gallery, or: I explore some mock-meat and reminisce over pumpkin cakes

Miss Natalie kindly suggested lunch at Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery as my leaving-the-team lunch, so we hauled ass all the way down to Queen Street from our office at the Paris End of Collins (no less!), and entered the world of kumquat tea.

FGY (sounds a bit gynaecological, doesn’t it?) is a purely vegetarian restaurant/art gallery/meditation space housed in what I think is an old bank. The menu
is a choice of lunch special, chef’s special or a la carte, but the highlight is, was, and always will be the kumquat tea. Sweet, syrypy, like hot cordial but nasty when cold, the tea comes served with whole kumquats in a glass tea pot and is a golden, Cottees cordial orange.

Things got off to a hysterical start when I asked what dishes were vegan, and the waiter replied that there was no vegan as it was a vegetarian restaurant.

He thought I said bacon.

We ordered twice as the first time (our waiter being a ri
ng-in because the first waiter’s electronic notepad wasn’t working) didn’t write anything down, came back, repeated the order quite incorrectly, and had to record it all over again. Our mains arrived, then one half of our entrée, and then a little later the other half. Friendly as the service was, I don’t need to be asked three times if I have ordered; not be able to make myself understood to my waiter even in the most basic terms; then have my order taken again; and then have my meal arrive in dribs and drabs. Luckily the kumquat tea arrived with little cookies and I was able to sate my annoyance with sugar.

The menu is pretty heavy on the mock-meats, which as a rule
I avoid but when faced with such a selection, was suspiciously keen to order something that I wouldn’t normally get to eat. Natalie and I ordered a Hainan “chicken” bento-type box which arrived with two types of salad, a frighteningly realistic pork-like mock-meat, and a pumpkin cake.

Check out the top left corner: I haven’t had pumpkin cake since high school, when we would troop down to the Snappy Happer on Canterbury Road … and yes, that’s Snappy Happer. No-one could ever say Happy Snapper properly and after a while no-one even noticed. The Snappy Happer was a fish’n’chip shop that served both potato and pumpkin cakes (…we have both kinds … country and western!) and I haven’t seen pumpkin cakes since. For those overseas readers not familiar with the humble potato cake, it’s a round thin potato patty deep fried in batter, salted and eaten with fish’n’chips (or just chips if you’re me). A bad potato cake is thin, soggy, yellowy-white and evenly battered. A good potato cake is golden with fat, has grotesque battery bubbles poking out of it like some kind of disease, and is piping hot and extra salty. Sadly the Snappy Happer is now closed, but the memory of those pumpkin cakes still makes me misty-eyed (and hungry).

So my FGY pumpkin cake brought back fond teenage memories, although it was extra fatty and oily and somewhat of a surprise in my bento box. The “chicken”-that-looked-like-“pork” was grey and textured and also on the oily side, and to be quite hone
st I ate it with some trepidation. It tasted … like … mock-meat. That said, I have no idea what chicken really tastes like so it could have tasted like human flesh for all I know. It wasn’t highly flavoured; it was a little bland, and the dominant sensation was the chewy texture smoothed out in oil. It arrived with some very orange ginger rice, which was patchily flavoured but interesting nonetheless. I’m not sure what Hainan-style is meant to taste like, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t taste it.

The vegetable dumplings were cute little things; not overly spiced and recently steamed. I really liked the mushroom buns suggested by miss Caitlin although I had initially wanted to try out the “pork” ones just to see; they were steamed well and hadn’t yet begun to harden post-heat, and I suspect that these two dishes were the only things only our table made freshly.

Trying to be just a little polite, I didn’t take photos of my companions’ meals, so also didn’t ask what they thought (although Miss Susan enjoyed her Korean-style sauce). Miss Susan, Miss Natalie and Mr David are all omnis, so it was generous and thoughtful of them to suggest FGY so that I and Miss Caitlin, a pescetarian, could eat with some choice. Although I thought improvements could be made in the service (vast improvements!) and some of the flavourings, I really did enjoy the meal, ate heartily, and commend FGY for its vision.

The real joy of FGY is the breadth of selection, if you choose well; the old-school Lazy Susan on the plastic-tablecloths; the company you go with; and without a doubt, above all, the kumquat tea.

Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery: 141 Queen Street, Melbourne. Ph. 9642 2388.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Everybody was potlucking...., or: we cook some food, eat a lot and sit on the grass in the sun

Quite frankly, one of the things I love most about vegan potlucks is not seeing friends, playing with puppies or meeting new people - it's looking at tables groaning under piles and mountains of colourful, fresh, fragrant food, licking my lips and thinking: "I can eat every single thing that's in front of me. I don't even have to ask one question about what's in it. It's mine, all miiiiiine!" (cue "mwahahaha" laughing).

Below: The Savouries Table

Maybe that's not quite true ... I love seeing people, trying new dishes, getting Sam out'n'about with other doggies, talking to other bloggers, and reaffirming that there are so many normal, cool, not-crusty vegans out there (just like me! Yeah!).

Yesterday's potluck was hosted by Emily, and it was one of the biggest I've been to with about 25 people and more food than we could eat. Buzz and our friend Miss Ellie came along for their first potluck too. Once again, everyo
ne brought dishes that almost brought a tear to the eye, such was the effort, inventiveness and taste-sensation-ess of it all.

Below: a colourful plate of mmmm.

I made a white bean pesto and asparagus tart from Lolo at, which I threw together in the hour between arriving home from a Hen's Weekend at Lorne and having to leave the house again. As might be expected, it certainly had many areas for improvement but Lisa and Cindy were kind enough to say they liked it and soggy as it was, it all disappeared.

Below: my soggy but tasty asparagus tart. Note the asparagus falling off the pastry.

I also attempted a white bean aoli (since I managed to find the tins of white beans in the third supermarket I went to I thought I'd better go all out) but in my panicked rush forgot to saute the 6 garlic cloves, put them all in raw, realised I'd rendered it inedible, hastily added a tin of minced tomatoes and more olive oil and threw some coriander on top to create some kind of Franken-aoli. I was not offended when it came home almost untouched.

I outsourced some baking to my sister, Miss T J
unior, who is an enthusiastic and quite bossy baker and indeed she came up trumps with some chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing from VCTOTW which were topped with darling little pastel star shapes. I resisted the urge to steal her thunder and claim them as my own, and publicly gave her full credit for them. Well done me!

Below: Miss T Junior, take a bow.

Buzz's contribution was chocolate crackles, which I'm embarrassed to say I only recently realised were vegan, and also a doddle to make. They were very cute in their bright patty pans ... I mean, they were very butch and manly, ahem ahem.

Below: Buzz's Special Confectionery

Other standouts included Kristy's ice cream cakes, the nachos pasta b
ake, Janice's fruit skewers, and our friend Miss Ellie's fabulous beetroot and quinoa salad with pomegranate dressing.

Below: Miss Ellie's beetroot and quinoa salad

Below: Kristy's ice cream cakes. I had trouble wrestling my half off Buzz.

It was great to see (in some cases meet) and hang o
ut with fellow PPKers and food bloggers Emily, Lisa, Lidia, Kristy, Toby, Michael and Cindy, and Pip, and there were lots of others there also who I didn't get to chat to. The day was only made indescribably cuter by the presence of Kimba (PuppyMama: Lisa), Stumpy (PuppyMama: Lidia), my Sam (quintessential Mama's Boy) and Dallas (PuppyMama: Emily), and we missed poor carsick Penny and Spike (PuppyMama: Christie).

Below: Kimba is ready for her close up, Mr De Mille, and Sam surveys what he thinks is his domain.

Here are some other morsels of scrumpt, as Miss T Junior and I say (well if something is scrumptious, there must be a thing that is a scrumpt, no?).

Below: Miss Ellie's curry and cauliflower balls

Below: lemongrass tiny muffins by Pip

Below: a real cherry-berry ripe by Cindy and Michael

Michael and Cindy:




Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't bet on cruelty, or: think twice about the Spring Racing Carnival (please).

More videos from Animals Australia

It is spring in Melbourne. Windows flourish with floaty dresses, floral adornments, teetering shoes. The city is chattering with fascinators, hats, gloves, heels, dresses, marquees, sport of kings, trifectas, quadrellas, win or place, and who got the favourite in the sweeptakes. People plan their outfits, their picnics, their drinks. David Jones is a jungle of sky-high floristy and the sun shines and the horses race and we all get a public holiday and drink a lot of champagne.

The Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is here, and I had planned and wanted very much to write a well-researched, well-argued essay about horse racing and its cruelties. This didn’t happen with life and work and family and so on, so instead I am posting a video from Animals Australia which is sad, not too graphic, and very very real.

The race season can be fun with all the dressing up, sunshine and champagne. It’s easy to hear why it’s all so enjoyable

“The horses love it!”

“They were bred to run!”

“They’re worth millions!”

“Its good for our tourism!”

“It’s good for our economy!”

“I wish I could retire to stud!”

“They’re an investment; they’re treated well!”

and easy to forget

the jockeys too who fall and break bones and die

the horses who fall and break bones and inevitably shot

the road to the knackery upon retirement for all but the luckiest who go to stud

how many horses are not good enough to race and are slaughtered before they
even make it on to the track

the horses who can remain 22 hours a day in a stall, fed periodically and denied the right to graze in the open as a part of a herd

the way that we have bred thoroughbreds so far from a natural state that their bones break and shatter under the pressure of the race

This isn’t right; it’s cruel and unnatural and just because it involves frocking up and drinking bubbly doesn’t make it fun.

Just because the aim of the game isn’t the death of the animal, like in dogfighting or cockfighting, doesn’t make this any less cruel – they will live in misery and eventually they will all be killed and be forgotten and we will continue to bet on their lives.

This Spring Racing Carnival, please look behind the flash and glamour. Don’t bet on cruelty.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A special meal with a special Buzz, or: we eat and swoon over ezard.

I was a very lucky girl last Tuesday. Buzz kept the venue of our special meal under wraps brilliantly (in fact a little too brilliantly and I now know he is an excellent trickster!) and we ate to my absolute joy at ezard, one of Melbourne’s finest restaurants and one which had already earned my respect on an earlier visit when it provided me with a vegan meal approaching perfection. This visit was no different, so indulge me while I describe it in loving detail and have a little bit of drool dribbling down my chin (you won’t be able to see this. But it will be happening).

ezard specialises in degustation, many courses of a couple of bites each designed to show off the abilities of the chef, allow the diner a taste of everything, and introduce a bit of experimentation into the meal. ezard runs a vegetarian degustation menu with a footnote that vegan meals are available on request. We chose the a la carte menu, but to know that a vegan degustation is possible makes me very, very excited. On each occasion I’ve eaten there the vegan meal has been prepared with no less care or consideration than other meals, which is an absolute boon when you consider that so many chefs consider veg*n food either a hindrance, an annoyance, or an abomination (Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain … I am blowing raspberries at you). On my first visit I made sure to tell the waiter how much I appreciated that ezard prepares such food, and was thrilled when he told met that the chef had put a lot of work into the vegetarian menu and was very proud of it – now that is a chef who is interested in food and creation and experimentation, not one who is unable to see past the butcher’s shop.

The meal started well when our waiter brought an extra dipping plate of olive oil to the table as the standard oil had been infused with parmesan.

This kind of active thoughtfulness continued throughout the meal, and is why the service at ezard is truly magnificent. Unfortunately I wasn’t sure if I could eat the bread (it’s brought in from babka – does anyone know if that’s dairy-free?) but that didn’t stop me dipping my finger in the oil and then sticking it right into the condiments. Two of the three were vegan: a startling sugar and chilli combination that started off tasting like a sugar cube and ended up with a mule’s kick of the red stuff; and a Szechuan pepper combination that was dark, smoky and sweet, and ended up being repeatedly dunked by my finger.

The complimentary appetiser was a red miso soup with lemon, wakame, sesame seed and tofu.

The lemon was an unexpected and surprising addition, which if mishandled could have turned the fresh miso into LemSip … but obviously it wasn’t and instead lent a very Chinese flavour to the Japanese soup. The sesame seeds also contributed something unusual, counteracting the tart acidity of the lemon with their nutty, neutral taste.

My entrée was an Asian gazpacho with avocado tempura and a fennel salad. The gazpacho was a tangy with a soft undernote of what I thought was basil; it was orange rather than the regulation green and had a thick pureed texture that contrasted well with the soft fennel.

The gazpacho was totally lick-the-plate-clean-with-your-fingers-in-public. The fennel salad was tart and tangy, complementing the soft texture of the thin fennel slices, with a smidgen of pungent coriander throughout. This again contrasted well with the tempura avocado, which was soft and slick with whole pieces of fresh, unblemished avocado. The first time I had this dish the avocado taste was untouched by the heat of the tempura (you know how it gets a different taste when heated? None of that – I thought they must have flash fried it at an incredible temperature and then cooled it almost immediately to achieve that bubbled tempura and totally raw tasting avocado, and I marvelled at it for months), but this time that heated taste was a little apparent, although with very little detriment to the dish overall.

My main was a dish that has continued to fascinate me. I didn’t love it, although I liked and admired it immensely – the reason I really enjoyed it was because it was so challenging and interesting, which left me feeling like I’d really experienced some top level cooking.

It was a witlof salad, with each witlof leaf separated and containing a piece of cold, cooked asparagus, peanuts and a sweet chilli-like sauce. Each fuzzy, furry, watery witlof leaf, slightly hairy on the tongue, was distinguished from the crisp asparagus and crunchy peanut, all of which was well-coated in a sweet, soft, fruity olive oil.

I really can’t say enough just how fascinated I am with this salad – the contrasts within it were superb and even though it wasn't my favourite taste of the night, it was certainly the one I’ve thought about most.

We ordered two sides, one a green bean with peanut and chilli sauce dish and the other Asian mushrooms. The green beans were well-oiled (not oily … well-oiled) and the chilli worked well with the salty peanuts scattered on top.

The Asian mushrooms had a sauce that was like one you might find in Chinatown, but was clearly made with fresh ingredients, a total lack of chemically additives, and which was garnished fantastically with fresh greens and crispy … things (if anyone can identify them from the picture, I’ll edit!).

Each flavour in each dish was considered, balanced, subtle and mathematic. Unlike my own cooking attempts, where packing a punch is the best I can hope for, these flavours were so well developed and carefully combined that every mouthful begged for slow and refined tasting.

My dessert was three sorbets – pear, blood orange and coconut (with a very lovely chocolate message!).

The pear was sweet and textured with vanilla undertones, leaving a lovely pear concentrate at the back and sides of the tongue.

The blood orange was Sorrento, Italy, where I once ate a lemon-lime granita in a vine-filled courtyard in the sun. It collapsed in icy crumbles, with the water diluting the intense citrus as it melted. The coconut was creamy, thick and rolled about the mouth until it softened and melted without aftertaste.

We finished with coffee (Buzz) and tea (me), which came properly – that is to say, with a teapot, a strainer, and a holder for the strainer. My one gripe here was the lack of soy milk – for a restaurant that so beautifully and fully catered for the non-dairy among us, this was a shame.

One other small thing was the $35 corkage. I understand that in a restaurant such as ezard the wines are chosen not for mark-up but to match the menu, and the corkage in part encourages guests to imbibe what is best suited, not what is on sale at the local bottle-o. However, as I couldn’t drink any of the wines or champagnes on the menu, a small reduction might have been nice. On the other hand, the prospect of $35 corkage made me want to make the most of it, so we had a bottle or Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Rose, and let me tell you – it was bloody great, mate.

ezard truly excels in all it does. The service and food are equally matched and any meal that makes you leave feeling like you’ve really participated in something new and exciting, as well as just plain yummy, has hit the bullseye. When added to this is a real interest in feeding veg*ns with equal pleasure as omnis – in my opinion this is what makes a great chef. Teague Ezard is respected amongst peers and guests for his vision and technique, but to me the greatest compliment I can give is that I felt like I was just as much a valued guest as anyone else.

Incidentally, the meal was not ridiculously priced for what it was. In fact, I think we got the best of the bargain.

ezard: 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Ph. 9639 6822.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This is the End, beautiful friend.

I am just so sad today. I never wanted to use this blog as a personal outlet of emotion, but today I am so blank and verging on tears that I can only share.

He wasn’t a close friend. He wasn’t even a good friend. But I’ve known him for more than ten years and when he came off his motorbike and lost his life it hit me harder than I thought. We used to hang out in the park eating two minute noodles on a Friday night.

I feel sneaky and opportunistic feeling like this and writing about it when we weren’t close, and when his good friends, let alone his family, must be feeling things that I can’t even begin to imagine. But I feel it and I feel it more heavily than I have felt many things.

A loss cauterises immaturity, it is a tidal wave on the smouldering coals of anger and hurt, and it is a loving rope that binds us who are left.

I fear now more than ever for those I know and love. Loss makes cowards of us all but it makes us bear the unbearable too. I think of his family and what they will have to carry and I am so achingly, guiltily, searingly sad for them and glad it isn’t me. Loss makes us selfish and we grip tighter to our own.

I am so sorry. I am so sad. I am thinking of you and your family and your dog and your friends and your last moments and I break to think of what they were. I am so sorry.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Study in Contrasts, or: I get some wicked service and some scatty service and think I need to forsake my weekend cooked breakfasts and take a stand.

Two recent eatering events have really highlighted the vast disparity in waiters' switched-on-edness to me. One experience left me ruminating on the value and warmth of a waiter who is engaged, knowledgeable and friendly, and the other left me just really pissy.

Item The First: On Friday night Buzz and I ate at Nudel Bar, on the recommendation of The Melbourne Veg Food Guide (and on the recommendation of my stomach, which demanded flat rice noodles and Asian-style vegies now, biatch). And as psychically predicted by stomach which led me directly and zombie-like to Nudel Bar, there were flat rice noodles with vegies on the menu, and I marvelled at the homing signal that my main digestory organ can emit when hungry.

When I ordered I asked the waiter if that dish contained any fish or oyster sauce. Clearly her psychic powers were on high alert too, because she asked if I was vegan, and said that she thought that there might be some non-veganness in there. She came back with a special menu that listed different dishes suitable for vegans, vegetarians, coeliacs and all other sorts of 'difficult' eaters (the menu didn't say that. I just made it up as an encapsulating term for us eatering freaks), and said that although my rice dish was on the vegan list, she had had a feeling that it did contain fish sauce, had asked the kitchen, lo
and behold it did indeed and she recommended something else which she had also checked with the chefs. What a woman!

My vegan Mee Goreng was a huge serve, very tasty and all over just edging on to value for money at $19.80. What left me grinning and with a wish in my heart to return, however, was not the lovely crispy fried shallots or rich sauce, but the waiter's attention to detail, that she bothered to check with the kitchen for each dish, and that the restaurant even had a special list.already prepared. Nudel Bar, this is great service and the lovely w
aiter with red hair deserves a pay rise and a big hug.

Below: Vegan Mee Goreng at Nudel Bar.

Item The Second: Buzz and I often go to Gluttony on Smith Street for breakfast, partly because they have a separate vegan menu, partly because their cooked breakfasts are great, and partly because they are absolutely massive. In fact, when I was overseas I had particularly naughty thoughts about how many I could eat.

Below: big & tasty Gluttony breakfast for girls with hungry tummies

A few months ago we noticed a run of instances at Gluttony where, for example, my toast came with butter (and when sent back for rectification but never reappeared), or my plate came served with a little pot of mayonnaise which necessitated a whole re-litigation of how my breakfast was cooked, and removal of said breakfast once the kitchen had confirmed it was all very buttery. Mostly we were served by a very scatty waiter who appears to make a habit of not really listening and spacing out a bit. This made us abandon Gluttony for a time, but the lure of their chili beans and olive toast brought us back.

On the next few occasions we were served by a different and very capable waiter. Ms Capable Waiter informed us that vegan breakfasts were normally cooked in Nuttelex, whereas up until then we had been informed by Mr Scatty Waiter that it could only be cooked in oil. Ms Capable Waiter was very switched on and my meals came out squeaky-clean-vegan and yummy.

Today, however, marked a new low in Gluttony/MissT relations. We were served by Mr Scatty Waiter again. I very clearly said that I was vegan and wanted my meal cooked in Nuttelex. He said that they only did it in oil, which was confusing but I agreed - I'd already been pretty clear that no dairy was the go and said the 'v' word loud and clear.

Upon (late) arrival, a little pot of mayo nestled in my plate. It was served by Ms Capable Waiter again so I asked her what the sitch with the rest of my meal was. She went and checked with Scatty, who I clearly heard say "But she only said she wanted it cooked in oil!". This resulted in an outpouring of semi-whispered vitriol to our table from me. Scatty came over, said "my apologies!", took my plate away, and returned it less than a minute later without mayo, but with a piece of olive toast that had the lacy bit of fried egg white on it. Once I realised a few minutes later I tore it off, wrapped it in a napkin, handed it back to him and said why - he looked confused, smiled, walked off and did nothing more to work out why his customers were returning food into his hand.

A little later, he came over and asked if I wanted some mushrooms now - as it had been almost 15 minutes since my new meal came, and I already had mushrooms on my plate, this only served to raise the spectre of butter once again.

After a fair degree of intra-table sniping, I decided to ditch the passive-aggressivity and say something. On the way out I spoke to the owner, noting that we came here especially for the vegan menu and that this had happened on a number of occasions. He said he's speak to "him" about it, meaning either the chef or Scatty I suppose, but as he didn't spend that much time talking to me (or offering me a free meal or a discount or an apology or anything like that that I might do if I ran a restaurant that had a special vegan menu and I heard that a regular customer was frequently getting her meal un-veganized by my scatty staff).

If this was a restaurant that didn't especially advertise that it had a vegan menu, vegan cookies and was, quote, "vegan-friendly', I guess I would expect to have to fully explain how I needed my meal cooked each and every time, and I'd be prepared for some mistakes. But not here. Not more than half the time. Not any more.

It's a shame, because the chili beans really are fabulous.

Edit: It's a little later now, and although I intend to maintain the rage, there are a few things I'd like to clarify. Mr Scatty, I'm sure you're a lovely person although you'd probably agree that you do space out a little. Your service is always very smiley and friendly; it's just that I think you don't really pay much attention and that's why incidents like today's really get my goat (is that vegan or not?). I think you could be a lot better with a little application. Perhaps you should watch Ms Capable Waiter more and see how she is efficient, engaged and alert to her work. I would love to enthuse endlessly about Gluttony: it's got great food, coffee and juices; is not stingy on the cooked stuff; I really like the lino tables; there are always current newspapers lying around; and it's very puppy-friendly. But I don't want to have to be both alert and alarmed about my breakfast.

Thank you for your prompt attention,

Yours faithfully &tc,

Miss T

Nudel Bar: 76 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Ph 9662 9100
Gluttony It's A Sin: 278 Smith Street. Ph
9416 0336

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Everyone and everyone they've ever met should buy this book, or: I plan on eating out a lot in the coming months.

At the risk of sounding like a wild-eyed fan, let me again sing the praises of aduki independent press to the seraphim and cherubim in the big vegan animal sanctuary in the sky.

The Melbourne Veg Food Guide, edited by Lisa Dempster and published by aduki, reviews veg eatering (yes that's eatering. Get with the program.) places from all over Melbourne and Victoria, and what sets it apart (besides its lovely cover design and the clarity of its rating system and print layout) is the totally one-hundred-per-cent useful reviews.

There are no sucky advertorials or gratuitous "I'm a restaurant reviewer goddamnit don't you know who I am you serf" slagging (equally there are no unnecessarily meaniepants reviews and no holding back when journalistic integrity demands a comment like "This place certainly gets away with a lot - no menu, no license, and somewhat overbearing (but efficient) service ..." - see, brilliant! Honest! Useful! Not too nasty!); there's helpful information about how to make sure your meal is vegan for each restaurant, including tips about which items might have some sneaky egg or ghee; and the writing is friendly, accurate and accessible. I was impressed by the spot-on descriptions of places I know, and giggly with excitement about all the places I don't know.

I don't really know anything about publishing, but I gather that it's an industry in which people who love writing, reading and books can find a high degree of intellectual stimulation around not only what is written but how it comes to be written and how it is and should be disseminated. From my brief peeks around Locus, Emily and Lisa's collaboration, the politics and policy in publishing seem to require a mind that is sharp, inventive, focused and eager to enter the difficult conversations about industry, independence and filthy lucre. I take my hat off and wave it in the air to you!

Everyone and their entire address book should purchase the incredibly fantastic and very reasonably priced Melbourne Veg Food Guide - visit for details - I assume we'll all get very fat eating our ways through it but that's par for the course really.