Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eatering with Miss T Junior at ezard, or: I expand my palate

In a record-breaking display of inexplicable and unaccountable delay, Miss T today posted a significant restaurant review not less than four whole weeks after dining. The seriousness of this matter was compounded by the revelation that the restaurant in question was a premier Melbourne eatering establishment, ezard.

Miss T issued the following statement through
her publicist: “I know I have let the fans down. My fans are everything to me. I am currently seeking treatment in an Arizona facility for exhaustion. I want to thank God, my family and the Academy. ”

Miss T has waxed lyrical befor
e about ezard here.

So with that blush-cheeked apology on record, I did
indeed eat again at ezard, this time with Miss T Junior, who is a long-term foodie and cook, and who received the dinner as her Chistmassy present.

My lovely eatering companion.

I will air my one gripe up front. I have previously commented that although I have no problem with the $35 corkage, although I wish it would be waived for those of us who BYO as none of the wines on the menu are vegan, I do expect that if corkage is charged and customers pay, there should be no silliness surrounding a bottle brought in. I arrived clutching a bottle well under the ezard standard but fully aware of and willing to pay the corkage. The waiter who seated us asked delicately, but not really, if it was a present for someone. I said it was for us and that I was aware of the corkage. He said he would speak to the wine waiter. Now why? This was most awkward, and when the maitre’d came over I explained – and it was not a problem. So why bother commenting – it was the one grump-making experience that I have to whine about.

So, wine glass full, we commenced.

Again, two of the three dipping spices were vegan – the Prickly Ash Szechuan pepper and rock salt, and the dried chilli and Chinese yellow sugar. And again, without the assurance of dairy-free bread, I unabashedly wetted my finger and happily ran it around the plate. The dark, smoky Szechuan and the sweet chilli, with sugar hitting you first followed by a chilli punch to the back of the tongue, are literally mouth-watering.

Our appetiser provided me with a hint as to what my taste of the night would be. It was Tom Kha, a coconut milk swallow of soup with kaffir li
me, lemongrass and chilli. It was warm but not hot; creamy but not thick; limey but almost sour. The sharp first flavours of lime and lemongrass, bringing an almost curdled feel to the milkiness, gave way quickly to the soft texture of coconut milk, lightly honed by a small addition of chilli. It was an extraordinarily well-balanced dish, balancing well the pungent, hot and soft broad tastes of its components.

Emboldened by our waiter’s instruction that the kitch
en could make anything from the vegetarian a la carte menu for me (something I haven’t heard before but will press to great advantage in the future), I ordered the eggplant two ways with sweet and sour pomegranate, and lemon (Miss T Junior, omnivore, ordered something unprintable on these pages, but enjoyed herself very much).

The first eggplant ‘way’ was, not to compare it downwards but to be accurate, a deep fried piece which made me think of the freshest, hottest, most straight-from-the-oil doughnut in the world. It had been brought to the table within seconds of being lifted from the frying, and it was hot-puffy, light as air and crispy golden with an oily sweetness.

Nestled between two such pieces, almost ironic-burger like, was a little salad of lightly oiled fennel and (maybe-perhaps?) dill, which provided the pointy end of the taste spectrum to counteract the fried sweety warmth. Underneath the bottom piece was a dollop of baba ganoush, a contrast of melty texture with a nasal smokey flavour.

Swirled around the plate was a pomegranate jus of sorts, punctured with pomegranate arils (apparently the correct term for the little berryseeds in
side), which was sweet and intense, giving a sugared counterpoint to the astringent baba ganoush, pungent fennel and hot eggplant fritters.

My main, as always, made me shiver just a little bit. On both previous visits I have ordered the Asian gazpacho with fennel, mint and avocado (t
empura-ed avocado, thanks) for entrée, and enjoyed it with such dish-licking relish that I promised myself that it would make a main outing. Fresh, incredibly tart gazpacho, a clear orange in flavour and so finely pureed that no remnant of its constituent parts is discernible, surrounds a tower of tempura avocado and shaved fennel all topped with a crispy roof.

I have wondered and marvelled before at the skill by which avocado can be dunked in boiling oil without creating the slightly disconcerting flavour of avocado when warmed. Like the eggplant fritters, I can only assume that someone is very fast indeed with the deep frying basket.

We ordered a side of potatoes with lovely soft mushy whole roasted garlic cloves and rosemary, which were generous in quantity, flavour and heat (nothing, and I repeat nothing, is more infuriating to me than ordering wedges, whether in pub or haute cusine fine dining, and getting an abomination of floury, lukewarm, collapsing pot
ato mess) . However, there is really only so much you can do with potatoes, oil, rosemary and garlic, and although ezard surely did all that is possible, it was not something that I would choose again over, say, the dessert that was to come.

I sneakily alluded earlier to my taste of the night (didja see what I did? See it, see it? Didja, huh?) and as I know you’re all now on the edge of your seats and the verge of pant-wetting, here it is: coconut. Sur-priiiise!

Surprise for me anyway. I’ve never been much of a coconut groupie, except for slathering my legs in Reef Oil and sticking them in the sun to fry as a 16 year old. It goes along generally with my meh-ness about many fruits, and I’ve never made
a beeline for it in food or scent.

But whereas the beginning of my meal was bracketed with spicy Tom Kha, the end was signed off with a sorbet of sublimity (yes I just made up that word. Sublimeness is clunky, and subliminal is just not on).

I digress. My dessert was three scoops of sorbet, each a little triumph of sweetery (did it again). The middle orangey one you see was a tangeriney sort of a thing, and although delicious, I did not finish it. Why? I give you: a) the two G&Ts I had before dinner; and b) the 2 or 3 large glasses of wine I had at dinner. Lest you think I am a lightweight, I give you c) a 43.4C day (that’s 110.12F for you top dwellers). Yes, the alcomohol had hit me where it hurted and I struggled to down any more.

The pear sorbet was, again, an essence of peariness. Light, sweet, and not as icy as the ice-crumbly orange sorbet, it combined an admirable light creaminess with a real fruit flavour.

But oh. Oh. (As Mrs T would say). The coconut sorbet. Like shavings of coconut flesh creamed until smooth (two non-vegan things there). The taste was fresh, real, authentic and unadulterated. It was clean and creamy, cold and melting. It was without a doubt the best sorbet I have ever had, and demonstrated that in the right hands – such as Teague Ezard’s – a tropical fruit can be both warm, pungent broth and cold, creamy dessert – in one sitting.

Once again, ezard proved that vegan fine dining can be accessible, easy and inventive. The service, apart from the little grrr moment with the wine, was informed and intelligent, and both Miss T Junior and I left feeling very lucky girls indeed.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A night out in Carlton, or: we visit Shakahari and I experience religious ecstasy (read: tofu caramel)

Bad vegan I am, I have never, not ever, eaten at Shakahari. This Carlton institution of 18 years claims to be one of the first to use Asian tastes and skills in cookering, well before the official 'Asian Fusion' craze.

I must admit that I had expected something more Carlton-esque foodwise - big serves of piping hot, punchy tasting, simple-but-honest food. I did not expect something more haute cuisine-ish, but for the excellent prices this food was fighting well above its weight.

I began with the signature avocado rolls, trumpety scrolls of avocado and tomato wrapped up in deep fried tempura eggplant spongey crispness (bits spongey, bits crispy). The light, Asian and very green coriander sauce was a tangy accompaniment to the hot and squashy rolls.

Buzz's entree was entirely different; soft pasta-like Agnolotti dumplings stuffed with pumpkin and corn. This was more of the Italian-style Carlton I had envisaged, and an excellent counterpart - warmer, richer - to the light and crispy avocado rolls.

My main was croquettes which appeared on the plate glistening with fresh fried-ness. In the mouth, however, they were a little disappointing; perhaps with something excellent from the supermarket and a pan of ultra-boiling oil I could have done the same.

The outstanding element on the plate was the apricot chutneysauce - more fluid than chutney, thicker than sauce - it coated in a stickily sweet contrast to the hot softness of the crispy-edged but thickly-centred croquette.

Buzz ordered the most meaty looking main, tofu and seitan kebabs with satay sauce. The skewered cubes on their own were like little basketballers - always up for the rebound. You could press one between your molars and it would spring back and push your jaws to open. A little dry (and disconcerting), they were improved by the spicy satay and well complemented by the pickled sides (although I was a little perplexed by the mini-mountain of rice).

And so to dessert. Buzz the ice-creamer chose one of the dairy desserts, but as I was confronted, as happens so rarely, with more than one vegan sweet, unable to choose I asked our waiter what the tofu caramel was, and I quote: "It's a little bit of heaven on a plate". Cliches notwithstanding, I am all in favour of God-like oral experiences, so I agreed.

And. Yes.

The tofu was silken and disintegrated into a cool meltingness in the mouth, without any of the tofu taste you would expect. It was almost flavourless, allowing its topping of a thick and sticky, almost crystallised, caramel sauce and chopped pistachios to become the flavour and texture focus of the dish. The contrast between the runny, sugary sauce and the crunchy, salty pistachios, mixed up with the dissolving tofu, was as promised Dei-riffic.

Shakahari was a great night out - nice enough to dress up but affordable enough to be followed by a movie. Friendly and unpretentious service belied the sophisticated presentation of the food, which was, although at times leaving some room for improvement, outstanding and exceptionally good value. And you have to give credit for its status as the first Melbourne veggie eatery & longevity- snaps!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some crap TV is good for the soul, but some is just cankerous, or: I watch Aussie Ladette to Lady and want to release those poor women from captivity

I'm afraid to say that by default I am watching Aussie Ladette to Lady. So far (and I did watch one of the UK series during a bout of late-night TV addiction), my main objection has been the overt lesson that there are good girls and sluts, and men won't marry sluts as they aren't suitable for breeding. I wish I were paraphrasing there.

Tonight however - hysterical ickiness that illustrates the link between animal cruelty and the objectification of, and violence against, women. The 'ladies' have already served drinks to a traditional hunt (y'know ... where the hunters just chase the fox who enjoys it very much and there's no kill. That one.), but today they are competing for the opportunity to represent Eggleston Hall at the next hunt. Huzzah. Part of the competition is to hang up a brace of dead pheasants, dumped on the floor in a heap of soft, crumpled, twisted bodies, on to sharp hooks suspended from their classroom ceiling. Sound the joyous trumpets.

I don't care if it's country. It's foul.

But hope might bloom: one girl just said that the Hall was trying to turn the girls into "decorated fuck dolls for men's pleasure" - and that is a direct quote! Yes! Marry me Ladette! She has put her finger on it exactly - this show does not think that these are young women who might need to mind their manners a bit as part of the social contract and who might benefit from a few nights off the piss, but that they are there to learn 'arts' that will transform them from masculinised, unmarriageable sluts into perfectly amenable purchased uterii for the benefit of the parade of 'suitable' young men before whom they are paraded and given a trial run with over the course of certain social events (I always cheer when they end up getting off under the stairs like normal people).

Apparently, accordingly to the survivor of the Two Fat Ladies who teaches cookery on the show, men just love sausage rolls. She's not teaching them in case they like sausage rolls (vegan issue aside). Yep, yep, male privilege at its most internalised best.

I have just heard the girls being told that at Eggleston Hall that they need to be "demure, graceful, and in control of themselves'. Demure. I must now turn it off or risk feminist/vegan/general aversion to crap television explosion. I also don't want to hear a 21 year old girl told by her 'teachers' that she is scum. While she is crying.

I have many words for you, Eggleston Hall, and none of them are ladylike. But they are all correct.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

12:30 Sat 14/2: Victorian Bushfires: Donations for human and non-human animals, and updated reporting

A reminder: The Red Cross/Victorian Government Appeal is asking for money only, as it simply cannot sort and store donations of clothes, food and so on. The other night some evacuees were forced to sleep outside after their temporary accomodation had to be used to store donated clothes instead.

Also, the Blood Bank is registering people for donations, but are unable to take all donations at the moment. They are trying to book people in over the coming weeks to stagger donations and to ensure a stable supply. They will book you online for the coming weeks.

Donations & Helping:

- If you have lost or found an animal, please register them here:

- From
For help with wildlife rescues contact Wildlife Victoria

Stock agistment is available at: Leongatha Saleyards - 0409 436 255; Pakenham Saleyards - 5940 2121.

Animal Aid in Coldstream have staff in the Kinglake area to pick up and check on animals. Their contact is Eddie on 9739 0300.

Debbie from the Albury/Wodonga Equestrian says they have room to take horses. Their number is 02 6043 2776 or 0407 263 881.

Free Medical treatment to pets affected by bushfires is available Lort Smith Animal Hospital in North Melbourne, 24 Villiers St, please ring on 9328 3021 and at the Lort Smith Plenty Valley 9407 2030

The Vet Science Department at Melbourne Uni is offering assistance to animals. For dogs and cats call 9731 2232. For horses 972268

- Further links at including:

Victoria Dog Rescue, 0412 105 530, 03 9552 9930, 0421 065 629

Dogs Victoria:

Beagle Rescue 0409 535 930

Pet Haven: 03 5427 3603

Melbourne University Faculty of Veterinary Science:

Dogs and cats - 03 9731 2232, Horses - 03 9731 2268

The Veterinary Clinic and Hospital: 250 Princes Highway, Werribee

Kristy has let me know that are taking offers of dog foster care. I have emailed them to offer.

A Vegan About Town has also advised about the Coles event on Friday, where all profits will go tot the Appeal - see her comment below for link.

- The Red Cross /Victorian Government Appeal: ph 1800 811 700, and direct deposit to:
BSB 082 001, account number 860 046 797

- Wildlife Victoria –

- RSPCA:, and for donations:

- Animal Aid (formerly Victorian Animal Aid Trust):, ph 9739 0300

- Help for Wildlife: welcomes donations of money to help meet fuel costs, along with animal cages, blankets and towels. Phone 0417 380 687 or Sue Kirwan on 9438 5709.

News and media coverage:

- 'RSPCA Animal Rescue' will have segment on rescuing animal victims of the bushfires - 7:30 Tuesday 17 Feb, Channel 7.

- Article about survival of animals:,25197,25038828-5006785,00.html

- Article from Animals Australia:

- Article: it is expected that over a million native animals died in the bushfires.,21985,25042249-661,00.html. This article is a heartbreaking reminder to remember to also support animals who have been injured, made homeless or lost their people.

- Article about a woman who refused to leave without Poncho:,21985,25037173-661,00.html

- Article about Sam the Koala:,21985,25038852-661,00.html

- Article on wildlife rescuers Help For Wildlife going in to affected areas: . See above for donation details.

- Article on dead and injured animals:,21985,25034233-661,00.html

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Graffiti Safari.

Has anyone seen these Vegan tags everywhere (I know Pip has! But I can't find the picture of her next to it ....)? They're all over the train line from Clifton Hill to the city, Victoria Parade/Street and surrounds.

I saw some more AR-ish work on a recent Graffiti Safari with Buzz and Cousin Zacman - whaddya think?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Facsimile, or: Oh the vileness

She sat on the train serene and aware of the sight she was. Young and luminous with the confidence of the teenage experimenter, she was all sparkle and fluff.

Her hair was piled on top of her head like an Anne Boleyn headpiece, pale and wig-like and sticking up in teased abandon to the stars. Her face was smooth and round with invisible eyebrows and lips painted to match her magenta tights. She wore a dress embroidered with little girls just like her and on her feet, over her tights, were silver sparkling dancing shoes which should have been at a ball.

Resplendent and knowingly majestic she sat, knowing her picture and beauty and sparkles.

On her lap a dog, a bag, a dog. A dachshund with purple jewels disturbingly accurate for eyes, her own coat tied around its neck. Its body was tan, but the texture unclear to me as I snuck looks from the other side of the carriage, sneakily inspecting and knowing she thought I was examining her.

The dog was made from close-cropped fur, ponyskin perhaps, a flayed hide fashioned into a facsimile of life. It was vile.

Can I describe the grotesqueness, the perversity of killing an animal, skinning it, and then re-creating it into some golem of a toy? Absurd parody, sick joke, cruel amusement: it was once real and living yet you killed it only to re-make it to look like it did before death, with purple glassy eyes and a shoulder strap.

To make animal out of animal, skin out of skin, but no warmth, no blood, no smile, no heartbeat - profligate foulness.

Maybe she thought it was cute.