What We Ate This Week- Pasta, Melbourne, Tennis and More!

So you may want to grab a cup of tea before you start reading, while the East Coast of the US has been freezing under a blanket of snow, we’ve been eating.  In the last 10 days, we’ve been eating and drinking- A LOT- and it’s all been pretty amazing.  So make yourself comfortable, this is a longer than normal post.

We’ve been in Melbourne for the last few days watching tennis and trying out the local restaurant scene- and the food down there is amazing!  I can honestly say in the last week, I’ve had two of the best meals ever- one in Sydney and one in Melbourne.   It’s been a great food week! Continue reading

Melbourne and focus

So if I’ve been a bit quiet lately it’s because The Mom has put the hard word on me and has forced me to get off Pinterest and actually start thinking about the wedding. The wedding that we’re actually having, not my Barbie fantasy Pinterest wedding with matching mason jars, hand crocheted personalised favors and a harpist who can somehow play all of jay z’s greatest hits accompanied by a cellist (celloist?) playing Coldplay mixed in while doves and butterflies are released. Just kidding, I hate birds and butterflies.

Seriously though, The Mom has tightened the screws and told me to get serious and focus. And that has put the fear of the wedding gods and my mother into me. I think the last time she told me to hunker down and focus I was probably in high school procrastinating a science project or math assignment I didn’t want to do.

So I’ve been focusing or trying to at least. Seriously, if I spent this much time, energy and effort planning every day of my life, I’m pretty sure I would have taken over the world by now. I didn’t even think or plan this much when I went to college or moved to Australia. I’m pretty sure I just bought a ticket, packed a bag and left all within about 6 months. (Possible exaggeration alert, I’m sure those closest to me would tell a different story but they’re not here so we’ll go with my version of a three step move).

So, not only have I been stuck in wedding decor hell, but we also away. We were in Melbourne!

The Runner and I go down every year for the tennis and every year I fall in love with Melbourne a little bit more. So much so that every year The Runner threatens to ban me from next year’s trip if I don’t shut up about how amazing Melbourne is and how great it would be to live there!

Melbourne is a slow burn, it’s not a city that smacks you in the face with a Harbour or an opera house or a bridge or a beach. The whole place is just really, understated and quietly confident and cool. It takes a while to realise how amazing it is.

It’s really different from Sydney in nearly every way. Some people compare it to LA vs New York or maybe Miami vs New York. Or [insert city with beach] and New York or London but much, much, much, much cleaner.

Sydney is like an only child, a bit bratty, a bit hyper active, and a bit in your face. Sydney was raised to believe it is special, because it’s parents told her how unique and special and one of a kind she is- just like everyone else. Sydney wants you to like her, no she needs you to LOVE her. Sydney needs to know that she’s the prettiest, most wow city in Australia. Sydney’s the prom queen or head cheerleader- really pretty but possibly a bit superficial.

Melbourne is like a cool big sister or the friend of a friend who was just that small bit older than you and seemed to have it all figured out. You want to get to know her and be like her and find out what’s so cool about her but she’s always one step ahead and full of secrets. She’s not going to give you a list of the “in” places to go, she’s going to give you lane ways and hidden door ways and let you stumble upon a few amazing places that you never want to leave.

Melbourne doesn’t care if you like her, she’s kind of a pain to get to from the airport, her weather is so changeable you will literally get four seasons in one day, if not one hour and lots of places aren’t labelled. You might be looking for a really cool bar or restaurant but without gps and the exact address you may never find it. Melbourne has crazy hook turns and hidden charms, it’s not in your face, you have to go wandering down Chapel St or through Fitzroy or down a lane way to find the really good stuff.

Every time I go to Melbourne I feel like I find 5 places I want to go back to or that I would love to check out- bars, shops, restaurants, suburbs, events- I think I could literally win the lottery and spend 3 months there shopping, eating and bar hopping and never get bored! And there’s so much art, sport and culture there that I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out on anything!

Anyhooo… If you haven’t been to Melbourne, get there! If for no other reason to form your own opinions about it, don’t expect to fall in love at first sight. The city isn’t pretty like Sydney, but if you want a city you can date and get to know better over time and fall in love with for its personality…. Melbourne will win every time!

Now back to figuring out what a peony is and why I might want one at my wedding!

And some photos from our trip!

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So much has happened…. well, no, not really.

It’s been a pretty quiet week in the He Runs, I Cook household this week.  Other than steak last night and possibly pork tonight, I haven’t cooked a thing– very rare!  I haven’t even made it past Episode 2 of Masterchef Professionals so you know I’ve been busy!

Well, that and The Runner has been watching tennis all week.

When last I left you, we had just landed in Melbourne for a whirlwind, action packed weekend.  Well… Melbourne was awesome!    The Runner is tired of me saying this, because I probably said it about 100 times over the weekend, but I could easily live in Melbourne.  It’s such a great city for lots of stuff- especially food.  The Runner and I had a great time, he had the best Hot Chocolate of his life and I had the best sugar I’ve ever tasted.  Image

No, Seriously don’t laugh, I did!  It even looked yummy in the mini mortar sugar bowl and it was really sweet— don’t laugh at the blatantly obvious statement, but it was so sweet and so good!Image  (It was at Cafe Vue on St. Kilda Rd if you’re curious) 

I also had some super delish Croque Monsieurs (yes, plural, I had two in two days.  Don’t judge me– you never see them on the menu in Sydney).  We found a delightful little wine bar, Enoteca, in Fitzroy- a neighbourhood I LOVE!  Both The Runner and I managed to avoid temptation on Ackland Rd in St. Kilda.  I’ve never seen so many cake shops on one street, there were about 5 in a row, if not more and they all had windows piled high with yummy looking cakes.  I think it’s where Hansel and Gretel got lost and the witch tried to fatten them up.  I was tempted but I knew we had Mamasita planned for dinner and I didn’t want to ruin my appetite.  Mamasita by the way was good– not sure it would have been as good if we had waited for 90 minutes but it was good. 

The best part of the whole weekend……  The Runner let me go to Books for Cooks.

A word on Books for Cooks.  

Overwhelming.  Too much of a good thing is…  

A combination of heaven and hell.   Seriously, it was amazing but awful at the same time.  Literally, for a cookbook tragic like myself it was just too much.  I was overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to start or where to end or where to look.  It was literally a whole store full of cookbooks….and it wasn’t just new books, it was a combination of rare books, new books, used books,  anything and everything kitchen or garden or cooking related was there. (However, they didn’t have Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine so ha!)  I think I nearly hyperventilated.Image

I felt like Alice in Wonderland but it was too much.  I highly recommend it– as long as you have a few hours, thousands of dollars and no Runner reminding you that you have other places to be.  In the end, I selected two books– one, totally quirky and random, and the other, I’ll probably actually use to cook….  

ImageDon’t ask me what made me buy The Dead Celebrity Cookbook.  I think I panicked slightly in there….The Mexican Food cookbook has serious potential given my addiction to Mexican food, but there was so much in there, so much to choose from…..so many cookbooks, so little time.

So, in a nutshell, that was our trip to Melbourne.  Thanks to The Blackman Hotel for being a lovely place to stay.  We’ve now stayed at all three Art Series Hotels in Melbourne, and we love all three…. although there is some debate about what to do for next year.  I loved our weekend away, and am looking forward to Australia Day Weekend this weekend…..I’m making Cupcakes!!!!!!!  (BTW, you’re supposed to have Oprah’s voice in your head when you read that… try again) I’m Making CUPCAKES!!!!!!!!!!!!  (Better!)

 

Oh yeah, and we saw some tennis too while we were there….an unknown player named Roger…. it was pretty good!Image

 

Hello Melbourne!

Believe it or not before The Runner was a runner, he was a tennis player- and if his accounts are to be believed he wasn’t half bad. I grew up playing tennis too, mainly because of the cute outfits, lack of contact with dirt and mud and lack of contact with other players– yes, I am a girlie girl! There’s no denying or hiding it.

Tennis has always been a favourite sport of mine, apparently my parents used to put my stroller next to the court while they played and when I could walk I had my first job as a target, i mean ballkid. When I was about 4 or 5, I remember my Dad buying me my first tiny wooden Wilson junior racket and trying to teach me the first principle of the game- bounce and hit. I got the basics but never really progressed further than that despite years of tennis camp and playing on the high school tennis team. The Runner, on the other hand, was ranked as a junior player and can do all sorts of things like hit with spin and control where the ball goes on the court– Every Time! The Mom still plays as well, weekly even- in fact everyone in my family plays.

So it is really exciting that one of the annual traditions for The Runner and I is to come down to Melbourne for the Australian Open. It’s a great weekend away not just because we get to see the best players in the world (Tomic v Federer tonight!) but also because the food in Melbourne is crazy good! Last year we went to an amazing Latin American/mexican place in Fitzroy that my taste buds are still excited for even though I’ve forgotten the name. We also went to Naked for Satan which was an awesome bar with great flavoured vodkas. And Hardware Society, an awesome spot for breakfast. In short, it’s a place I could eat my way through if money and personal appearance didn’t matter. There are also amazing shops and it’s a great place to hang out.

For the next 36 hours, we’re here for the tennis and for the food and I’m excited!!! There are two downsides- one, it’s super cold and two, The Runner has already banned me from a shop. It’s called Books for Cooks and sells nothing but cookbooks. Sounds like heaven, but I’ve been told I’m not allowed in! Oh well….. There are plenty of other places I can get into mischief… And they have a website!
books for cooks

It’s Challenge Day!

For the first challenge of 2013, I’m taking on two dishes from Gary Mehigan and George Colombaris’ cookbook, “Your Place or Mine?”  For those of you who don’t know Gary and George, they’re two of Australia’s three Masterchef judges which means they’re pretty much everywhere when it comes to TV, Food, and Australia.  As a religious Masterchef watcher, there was no way that I wasn’t going to buy this cookbook.  Last year, in Melbourne, The Runner and I went to George’s restaurant, The Press Club.  It was good, highly overpriced but I’m glad we went (just to say we had gone really).  By the way, we’re back in Melbourne next weekend if anyone has any restaurant recommendations!

Their cookbook is organised into four sections- Providore, Green Grocer, Butcher, Fishmonger, with each section divided by ingredient- Bread, Cheese, Saffron, Asparagus, Rabbit, Lobster, Squid, just to name a few.  Each ingredient has a recipe from George and a recipe from Gary.

I’ve honestly never cooked anything from this book.  It’s one of those books which is lovely and has great pictures but is a little bit intimidating– because the pictures make the food look too good to replicate.   The photography is lovely, which isn’t surprising considering how many times on Masterchef George and Gary talk to contestants about “eating with the eyes” and presentation of dishes.  

For this challenge, I’m making the “tabbouleh with preserved lemon” on p.7 (under the ancient grains section) and “broccoli and egg” on p.37.  Yes, I know it does feel like I’m copping out a bit by making things that are on the easy side but…..  hopefully they will be tasty!   Not having an oven fully functioning and not quite being back into the full swing of things means that I am not quite at the height of my cooking powers!

p.7- the Tabbouleh mentioned above

p.27- the start of the Dried Bean chapter, two good recipes there- Grilled Quail with Braised Cannellini Beans and Chili Salted Beans.  Both required soaking beans for 5 hours or overnight.  WHY??????  Why would anyone do that when they could open up a tin of beans and toss them straight in?

p. 33- the start of the Egg chapter, so I’m making the Broccoli and Egg dish

p.47- Rhubarb and Melomakarona Crumble- I can’t pronounce it so I didn’t really want to make it.  (it’s in the Honey chapter if you’re curious)

p.69- The start of the Rice chapter- options were Saffron Risotto with Clams and Lemon Marscapone or Habibi Rice- two good options, although the risotto involves making stock and which I’m too lazy to do…

p.77 Escabeche of Mackerel- yuck.  mackerel, gross.  not going there.

p.87- the start of the Green Grocer chapter- pass!

p.101-the start of the Beetroot chapter- two options here but considering I nearly failed my Aussie citizenship test because I don’t like beetroot, I have no real desire to cook it.

p.185- a picture of the Beef Carpaccio With Flavours of a Hamburger… now this was a close one.  I was very tempted to make this one, but it was one of the recipes that looked amazingly well presented and gorgeous, so I was a bit hesitant.  Plus, it has beetroot in it….. so a big fat no for today.

So that’s how I came to the Tabbouleh and the Broccoli and Egg, it’s not glamorous but hopefully it will be tasty with some lamb chops and good company!  Also, our oven door is STILL broken!  So annoying!  The landlord says it will be fixed soon, but I’m not holding my breath…. it’s just very frustrating to try to juggle hot food, a hot oven, and a wonky door whenever we use it….. oh well…

Stay tuned for the Your Place or Mine Challenge!