Monday, 30 June 2008

The $9 muffin


It started out as a cruisey Sunday arvo outing. A mother/daughter/dog bonding session in the beautiful surrounds of Roma Street Parkland. Always keen on a coffee, I decided to revisit Melange, a great little coffee shop/restaurant at the Roma Street end of the park. I'd had a fabulous muffin there before and being a bit of a muffin expert, decided to start the search for Brisbane's best.

Instead of finding Brisbane's best, I found Brisbane's most expensive. When the bill for two coffees and two muffins came to $27, after picking myself off the floor, I queried the muffin price. I'm used to paying around $4 at my local and the price of $9 was astounding. However, in the name of research, I decided to give it a go. Maybe this would be the best muffin I had ever tasted. Cutting to the chase - it wasn't. It did come with a small scoop of ice cream but it didn't taste any better than the muffins I made the day before or countless others I have eaten, and it certainly wasn't the best. We sat outside on the park benches and drank our bitter coffee in takeaway containers. Our muffin was large, maybe about 10 cm wide, but that's only a little bigger than the standard $4 variety. Presented in a takeaway container, it didn't win any prizes.

Melange looks very flash these days, with some stunning chandeliers and an upgraded interior, but even for inside diners the $9 muffin seems steep.

Noosa Springs


Recently I stayed as a guest at Noosa Springs while researching a story for the summer edition of Selector LifeFoodWine magazine. Noosa Springs is about 10 minutes drive from Hastings Street on the shore of Lake Weyba. It has several advantages including a serious gym with classes, a wonderful spa, a good sized pool suitable for laps and an on-site restaurant which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The whole resort focuses around the main star of the show, which is a championship golf course. To a serious non-golf player the course looked pristine and beautiful, plus offered a very relaxing view from the restaurant. We had a breakfast buffet and lunch at the restaurant. The day spa offers a wide selection of treatments including a hydro massage pool with seriously strong underwater jets to massage your body. I also had a rose quartz crystal facial and had a lot of trouble staying awake - I was so relaxed! I purchased some of the Babor products used in the facial and my skin has never been better! We stayed in a two bedroom apartment which was very nicely appointed and had views over the golf course. Noosa Springs is a great alternative if you don't want to stay in Hastings Street or Noosaville. I stayed at the resort as the guest of Tourism Noosa.
Noosa Springs +61 7 5440 3300, www.noosasprings.com.au

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Queensland's most exclusive restaurant revealed!

Well the votes are in for my very informal, completely unscientific and guaranteed anonymous survey to find which restaurant in Queensland is the hardest to get a seat. And the answer - Montrachet! My respondents were those 'in the know' in the dining scene - people who frequently book tables. They tell me Montrachet in Given Terrace, Paddington is the hardest restaurant in Brisbane to get a seat. Interestingly, in a recent interview with restaurant owner Thierry Galichet, he told me it's not that hard to get a booking, but if you want the window seat on a Friday night be prepared to wait six months. Other diners, it would seem, beg to differ on the difficulty of obtaining a suitable booking.

There are a few reasons why it's difficult to get into Montrachet. The restaurant is immensely popular and highly awarded but doesn't open on a Saturday night which limits diners' options. This is the only Brisbane restaurant I know of (apart from Salt at Rosalie) that doesn't open on Saturday. It's also not overly large so fills fairly quickly. So here's your chance to test out the theory - decide to dine at Montachet and see when you can get in! I can recommend the food!
Montrachet, 224 Given Terrace, Paddington. + 61 7 3367 0030 www.montrachet.com.au

Cheese Making Day 8


Well it's starting to look like brie! That's if the very fuzzy stuff turns into a crust instead of taking on a life of it's own. I am hoping that cheese thrives on just a little healthy neglect like children do, cause I haven't turned it every day (sorry Chris!). It still smells OK but I've been vigilant with keeping everything clean and making sure I wash my hands in soap and bleach before touching the cheese, as per the instructions. Next I might cruise the local bottle shop for a nice South Burnett wine to enjoy with my cheese when I finally take a bite, but there's no need to put it on chill yet - the maturing process takes up to three weeks!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Gold Coast shimmers at night







QBar is the highest altitude bar on the Gold Coast and that has nothing to do with high-minded attitude. QBar is located on QDeck, on level 77 of Q1 in the heart of Surfers Paradise. For $10 after 8pm on Friday and Saturday nights, you can enjoy cocktails with 360 degree views of the Gold Coast. Normal entry price is $18.50. It takes just 43 seconds to get to the top in one of the world's fastest lifts and the views are spectacular. I took my photos around sunset.

The building is easy to find on Surfers Paradise Boulevard. Just look for the tall one with the spire on top.

I also stayed at Q1 which is the world's tallest residential tower according to the press release. The one bedroom apartment ($245 per night low season) was very modern with lots of glass and some great sliding doors which opened right back to give a very spacious feeling. The photos show the sub-penthouse ($1000 per night low season) which was very luxurious. Downstairs is the Q1 spa which uses Indigenous LI'TYA products.

QDeck +61 7 5582 277, www.qdeck.com.au
Q1 Resort and Spa+61 5630 4500, www.Q1.com.au

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Cheese making - Day 5


Just back from a great time on the Gold Coast where I had lots of wonderful food and wine. My cheeses were left in the tender care of my daughter who turned them every day. Chris Ganzer says at this stage they should be a little slimy because the white mould cultures are starting to grow. They look fine to me but a long way off ready for eating, which fits the three week schedule. I'll blog on this again when they look different. Chris' next cheese making workshop will be on September 27 at Black Pearl in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley. Find out more at www.blackpearl.com.au

Monday, 23 June 2008

Making cheese Kingaroy style



Like Miss Muffett I'll soon be eating my own curds, hopefully transformed into delicious brie, now I'm a graduate of a Kingaroy Cheese Workshop. I spent Saturday in the relaxing rural setting of Kingaroy waiting for and watching milk transform into cheese.

Christopher and Tracy-Ann Ganzer host the workshop which starts at 10am and finishes around 4pm with a delightful lunch part of the deal. My fellow class members were as keen as I to discover the mysteries behind one of our favourite products.

The morning started with heating the milk to 37 degrees, the same temperature that it comes out of the cow, then Chris added a cocktail that started the process. We tried three different types of milk and agreed the best tasting was the least processed. Then it was back to waiting and cutting, waiting and cutting, waiting and cutting, drinking and eating, talking and laughing, waiting and cutting.

At the end of the day I had two cheeses with the potential to be brie and the feeling that I'd had a great time. It will just take a few more weeks of daily turning and some judicious tasting before we can enjoy the wares. Unlike Miss Muffet I didn't sample the whey and the seat next to me is taken so no spiders need apply.

I'll report on the progress of my brie in a future blog and if you'd like to read the full workshop experience story, watch for it in the Sunday Mail's Escape section.

Find out when the next workshop is scheduled www.kingaroycheese.com.au

Kingaroy Cheese
Old Butter Factory
67 William Street, Kingaroy. +61 7 4162 5990

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Queensland's most exclusive restaurant?

Got an opinion on which restaurant would get the guernsey for Queensland's best, most exclusive and hardest to get a seat? Love to know what you think. Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Mary Pop-in

Lovers of real tea will appreciate this doover-daddy handcrafted in Maryborough, the birth place of author Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers. Manufactured from quality stainless steel, the Mary Pop-in does not rust, keeps the tea leaves out of your cup, and has the added feature of preventing drips from landing on your good linen! I've got this in the teapot I use for herbal teas and the Mary Pop-in works a treat straining the leaves, plus its easy to clean. It’s available online at www.teapotstrainer.com.au for $7.50 posted. More information: +61 7 4121 3915, www.teapotstrainer.com.au

Monday, 16 June 2008

Sunshine and coconuts a hit for Leonie Palmer

While the rest of Noosa struggles with post wet weather excesses, Leonie Palmer Fisher and Steve Fisher opened Coconut Grove Bar Bistro with a bang last week. On Saturday night it was standing room only for the popular early sitting as the who's who of Noosa rocked up to check it out.

Located between Marble Bar and the highly acclaimed Wasabi on Sunshine Beach's eat street, you'll find Coconut Grove up two flights of stairs overlooking Duke Street.

The decor is white and simple with a Hawaiian-style girl lamp as an attractive stand out feature. The Hawaiian theme flows through the starters with some very yummy Pu Pu plates (pronouced pow pow). We sampled the coconut prawns and cumin blinis and seared scallops which were both cooked to perfection and truly delicious. There were several other suggestions on this list that deserve tasting but will have to wait until next time.

For mains I tried the wild rabbit cannelloni with chestnuts and mushrooms which I enjoyed but didn't leave lasting memories. My friend went with the local spanner crab saffron risotto bisque. We both expected this to be soup like, but it was a normal risotto with a delicious ring of very thick bisque. Confusion aside, the dish was well received.

Our dessert selection was Greek orange saffron and honey cake with the option of coconut ice cream on the side.

The drinks list includes a good collection of cocktails and there's a choice of several Italian wines amongst regulars on the wine list.

Leonie's expertise is obvious in the finely tuned kitchen which is open to the restaurant, while Steve runs front of house with a team of experienced and attentive wait staff.

Find Coconut Grove at 8/46 Duke Street, Sunshine Beach. +61 7 5449 2333 www.coconutgrovebistro.com

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Cotton on to Cotton Tree


If you haven't discovered the new restaurants at Cotton Tree on the Sunshine Coast, it's time you did. Tucked away at the mouth of the Maroochy River, Cotton Tree is the pretty cousin of Maroochydore. The strip that lines the river includes a host of restaurants and cafes of all types of cuisines. It certainly rivals Mooloolaba's main drag for good eating.

Sister Organic Cafe is a twin to the first established Sister at Palmwoods. The owner's association with Jamie Oliver is showcased through a daily Jamie's special on the menu. The Boatshed at the end of the strip has been a family favourite for several years. There are few things finer than sitting under the cotton trees gazing out to sea and enjoying a meal with friends.
My latest discovery is Ba Vigo, a Spanish addition to the line up. I was keen to try the local cuttlefish salad with roast tomato, goats cheese and rocket but it was sold out. However the Spanish blue cheese pear salad with mint, tomato and baby spinach was a real wow dish, so full of flavour. Mum went for the barra which came from the Northern Territory and was pronounced wonderful. We enjoyed a delightful Sunday lunch at this restaurant and it certainly is place to which I will return.
BaVigo 3/27 Cotton Tree Parade, Cotton Tree +61 7 5479 1000


Ba Vigo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Really hot drinking choc!


If you'd like to spice up your long winter evenings, try a mug of Byron Bay Coffee Company's Chilli Cinnamon drinking chocolate. This is a drink with bite combined with a rich, full flavoured, silky smooth choc taste. I enjoyed the chilli hit but there wasn't much of a cinnamon follow through.

The Byron Bay Coffee Company won three awards for their Gourmet Drinking Chocolate and Chilli Cinnamon Drinking Chocolate at the Sydney Fine Food competition in 2007. The Gourmet Drinking Chocolate also won rave reviews by the hot chocolate expert in my home as well. At $11.50 for the Chilli version and $10.5o (both online prices) for the Gourmet Chocolate this is a premium product but then it's hard to put a value on that delicious comfort that comes from sipping really good hot chocolate. Find it at Darrell Lea, David Jones and some IGAs or online: www.byronbaycoffeeco.com.au

Monday, 9 June 2008

Best cinema deal!

Hats off to the Dendy Cinema at Portside for their fantastic Sex in the City movie deal. Patrons can purchase a glass of champagne, small popcorn and 100gm block of delicious Lindt chocolate (70% cocoa) all for $10. This has to be the best deal around. Not only do you get to watch a great movie (all the best things about the series rolled into 2 + hrs) but you also get to eat and drink alcohol in the cinema. The seats are great, the patrons are friendly and the parking is easy provided a cruise ship is not arriving or departing. Do yourself a favour and head there for your next movie outing!

Friday, 6 June 2008

New Kelvin Grove farmers market

Brisbane’s food scene continues to grow more exciting with the opening of another farmer’s market, this time in user friendly, city central Kelvin Grove Urban Village. This is an area that has changed dramatically in recent years. Gone are the streets of workers cottages and in their place is multi story apartment living, a new home for La Boite Theatre and an expanded campus for the Queensland University of Technology. The new market will be located on Blamey Street and will be an extension of the popular West End Flea Markets operated by Peter Hackworth. The promise is fresh fruit and vegetables, organic foods, gourmet stalls, plants, herbs, flowers, pre-loved clothing, bric-a-brac and buskers every week. There's quite a lot of parking in the area so hopefully it will not be an issue. It all starts on Saturday June 7 – tomorrow. I can’t get there but I’d love to know what it’s like, so please leave a comment below.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

South Burnett food comes to town

The good folk from the South Burnett (that's Kingaroy, Bunya Mountains territory) came to town on Wednesday to show off their culinary style and fabulous regional produce. Chef Jason Ford from Kingaroy TAFE cooked up a storm with a delicious twice cooked pumpkin galette, pan fried Caminda Pork fillet from the Yarraman Bacon Factory, balsamic red cabbage with fennel and apple, a soy beurre blanc and some fresh asparagus.

It was all delightful but the cabbage caught my attention as particularly tasty and easy to cook. Here is Jason's recipe: 1tbsp Proteco extra virgin olive oil, 25g red onion, finely sliced, 100g red cabbage, finely shredded, 50g baby fennel bulb, shredded, 50g red apple,diced, 4 tbsp apple balsamic (available from Black Pearl Epicure), 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp brown sugar, salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion on a low heat until tender and translucent. Add cabbage, fennel and apple, cook gently for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Serves 4 . www.southburnettholidays.info

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Happy porkers


I've been addicted to Jimmy's Farm on the Lifestyle Channel for too long now (hope the crisis is over soon). I've often thought those happy pigs must taste great and recently had chance to dine on the Aussie equivalent at a DPI Gourmet Grower Winter Seasonal Produce Lunch. Out at Goondiwindi, on Queensland's fertile Darling Downs, Gooralie Free Range Pork are committed to keeping their pigs in a stress free environment allowing them to be "As happy as..." And boy, does it taste good. With a little bit of Alastair McLeod's (Executive Chef at Bretts Wharf and star of Ready! Steady! Cook!) magic, this was tender, delicately flavoured pork with a good texture - absolutely delicious. Alastair used a slow cooking technique to bring out flavour and served with a Granny Smith mash and a sauce made from Sutton's cider.

After a lifetime of mixed farming, Mark and Charisse Ladner decided to produce the sort of pork they would like to eat - antibiotic free, hormone growth promotant free, chemical residue free. Their farm is one of only two piggeries in Australia that is RSPCA accredited.

Mark Ladner says its all about a tender juicy product, giving it a nice flavour and producing something that you are proud to eat.

Find it in Brisbane at Stuartholme Meats, Bardon and Allsop & England Butchers, Cooparoo.

Mark & Charisse Ladner
"Gooralie" Goondiwindi.
07 4676 4119 www.gooraliefreerangepork.com.au

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Juice it up!

All apple juices are not created equal. Out on the Granite Belt, David and Ros Sutton turn apples from their orchard into some of the best juice around. It has that super fresh varietal flavour that can only be obtained by bottling the freshly pressed juice immediately. Varieties available vary depending on the season but may include Granny Smith, Jonathon, Royal Gala, Winesap, Mutsu, Pink Lady and Sundowner. Apple with ginger, lemon, mandarin and orange are other popular variations. All juices are totally free of additives and have been minimally filtered to retain the freshest flavour possible. Find the juice and the rest of the Sutton's products at the Powerhouse and Mitchelton Farmers markets. The juice also is available at Rosalie Gourmet Market, Jocelyn's Provisions and Farm Fresh Central.

Sutton's Juice Factory & Cidery, 10 Halloran Drive, Thulimbah
+61 7 4685 2464 www.hivalue.com.au


Monday, 2 June 2008

Organic coffee with flowers

The sign promised coffee that was pesticide, herbicide and fungicide free that doesn't cost the earth so I decided to test it out. Flowers Organic Cafe on Little Stanley Street at South Bank is part of the booming South Bank precinct, just don't try to park cheaply there on a Sunday as the car park will hit you for $15 per entry! Inside the shop the flowers part of the name quickly makes sense. There is a great range of potted orchids of all styles, stylish vases and good cut flowers. A handy place when you need a quick present. The cabinets were filled with attractive organic food just begging to be eaten, but I was strong. When the coffee arrived it was hot, full-flavoured and attractively presented in an unusually shaped white cup, however I didn't think it particularly cheap at $3.50 but it did come with a nice little biscuit. I'll still be popping back for another cup and probably that gorgeous white orchid!

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