Tag Archives: food

Mandarin Peel

Is it just me or did you hate mandarins as a kid? I used to hate them especially at school. Mums across the country and probably the world thought they were such a handy piece of fruit to add to a lunchbox. They were healthy, “yummy” and kids got to peel them which was a form of exercise,  no? So why did I hate them? Because citric acid in the eye bloody hurts. Kids would sneak up on each other, reach around in front of your face with a mandarin peel and squeeze it. ACID!! Hilarious. Please speak up if this didn’t happen to you as a child. Maybe I was one of the only ones to experience this. Wait, did I get bullied at school?

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I moved house this weekend. And I say house, because I mean HOUSE. Not an apartment block that you share with 40 other people, who you either ignore or smile awkwardly to. The even better news is, that I didn’t break anything when I moved. Not even a backpack, or a basket of scissors. Impressive and smooth. I can add to this actually.  EVEN better than that is the move was across the street from my old place. How good is life. Had some awesome mates help carry everything across and now its the task of fitting all our stuff into an even larger space. It is missing a tree house though. Looking to see if this can be arranged.

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Kyneton. The home of Annie Smithers Bistro.

I think I was the only one in Melbourne last week who was excited to go on the V-line for the first time. Well me and maybe a six year old in Bendigo who was going into the big city to visit his Aunty in Clifton Hill. Maybe.

V-line was to be our chosen method of travel (that I like to now call “The Carriages of Adventure”) to our fifth chapter in the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival prize I won. The train was going to take us to Kyneton where we would get to stay for the weekend and also experience the institution that is Annie Smithers Bistrot.

As I google everything prior to any unknown region, I noticed that the highlights of Kyneton were the local Botanic Gardens and a public swimming pool. More on those later. Kyneton is situated north of Melbourne, edging into the Gold Rush region that Victoria is famous for. Eureka,canvas tents and gold pans. Arriving at Southern Cross Station, we boarded the V-line train and settled in for the hour ride. The children with iPads nearby barely made a noise and the two hungover teenagers remained fast asleep the whole trip.

We pulled up to Kyneton station after about three chapters more through the book I was reading. I will not specify which book exactly, but it may have been made into a musical and involves a green lady. The train station was old and the bus timetable stated there was no buses on Saturday. I called the local taxi surface, and within five minute a Prius Taxi pulled up. The taxi driver was full of personality, sniffing several times due to a cold and grunting the total of the fair when we pulled up in the main street. I don’t know why I expected some kind of Kyneton tourist talk.

We were informed on our instructions for the prize to pick up the keys to our apartment from a homewares store. We entered into the cosy little shop just as the owner was leaving to show another couple their room. She asked us to look after the store until her return. So within a minute we had exited a cab and played shopkeeper. As I was versing for how I would talk up the handmade soaps, the owner returned and warmly welcomed us to the apartment which was literally the door next to the shop. It turns out the apartment was above and behind the shop. It was awesome, pretty much an entire house to ourselves, with open gas fires and a little cottage garden. I would pay to stay there! It turned out to be a great spot for the evening and with Annie Smithers Bistrot about 50 metres away, could not complain it was far from anything.

This was the view out the back, with an old stone church behind our yard.

We strolled down the main street for the afternoon and there were plenty of little stores with antiques and home-wares. Such a peaceful and beautiful street, full of character/s.

We got ready and headed out the door, leaving plenty of room to get to the restaurant on time. 84 seconds later, we were through the door, and greeted and taken to our seat. The place smelt of different woods, whether it was a candle burning or just the natural smells of the many types of wood that were evident in the swedish style decor. Our menus were provided and I immediately picked up on the fact that it reflected the season and what was fresh and country-like. Thats pretty observant for me. Being the Vego, it was an easy pick with one dish on the entree and one in the main that was suitable but both looked fantastic. A leek tart for entree, and a cauliflower and truffle gnocchi for main. Though there were other meat type meals that even I thought looked great, such as duck and the lamb. But here is the full menu.

I now insert a photo of my tart.

Dessert time came upon us and someone told me once, if you ever get the chance, order everything on the dessert menu. So we did, apart from the soufflé, as that takes a little longer and I will be honest, I am not very patient. So really, I am yet to order EVERYTHING on a dessert menu. Though I can say we ate then all and then I used my finger, when no one was looking, to scoop up the last of the amazing sauces.

We said goodbye to the super friendly staff and strolled up back to the apartment on the old street in the cold, all tuckered out.

Woke the next morning and after a breakfast that was provided for us to cook ourselves in the country kitchen, we packed our things and strolled through the town to the station. Thankfully we didn’t plan anything in the town as most things were closed on a Sunday. It’s true what they say. We walked by the Botanic Gardens and we were a tad underwhelmed, but at the same time, my home town doesn’t have its own Botanic Gardens so good on them. Then we went by the local swimming pool, which was empty and looked like it had been closed for ten years, the sides of the pool now an art gallery for local teenagers. My local town’s pool has water in it, so we even out in the end.

I just hope some Kyneton kid isn’t sad…

Jumping back on the V-line with a bunch of locals going to the footy, we headed back to that Melbourne place. Thanks Kyneton, and thanks Annie Smithers! I wish I could weed your garden,help you sow some carrots or wash a cabbage for you.

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C-O-D-A

As usual, it took me a while to find this restaurant. I am not used to looking down at the ground to find a restaurant down the classically Melbourne’s Flinders Lane. The establishment was in a basement, with the only signs that it existed were a few knee high windows next to the pavement. CODA was a restaurant I had heard of and I had been very keen to give it a go. So I was pretty darn lucky for it to be Dinner Four of the Bank of Melbourne and Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Prize. The industrial look was a winner as soon as I walked in, and sat down at our table. The mesh lighting was a bit different but at the same time, very Melbourne. Thats the cool thing about this city, anything goes and therefore it becomes unexpected all at once.

Our cheery waitress talked us through the menu like it was her favourite short story, and I discovered that pretty much 3/4 of the dishes on the menu could be turned into a vegetarian dish. The menu is divided up to smaller dishes and larger dishes, so it was a shared scenario for the evening. We ordered a long list of things, as we were in a fortunate situation, along with about four cocktails each, and still didn’t come close to our gift voucher budget. I was very impressed and the food was fantastic. The odd thing was that my favourite thing on the menu was the side of brussel sprouts. Something about them made me just want to proclaim how good they were to the people in the street on the way home. I came close.

The cocktails were fantastic, I would come here just for them, the Clover Leaf being my favourite, so rock on in there and don’t even look at the list, act like a local and order it. As long as you are cool with drinking alcohol. It has alcohol in it.

All I can say is that everything I ate was fresh and quality, with an overall asian feel to the menu, with modern/western twists on some of the dishes. Can I just say it was all yum and all should go here? It isn’t too expensive either.

Walking back out into the night after finishing off the dinner with an amazing set of desserts also, I was simply chuffed. Thanks Coda, there was a reason I had heard of you.

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The Lake House – Not a Sandra Bullock Film

I quickly discovered when I googled “The Lake House” in Daylesford, that it was a fairly big deal in Rural Victoria. It even sat higher on the search list than Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reave’s “The Lake House” (Hyperlinked for your enjoyment and additional knowledge for the day). So immediately I assumed, while I casually walked by the lake in Daylesford, I would not see any melancholy scenes  like this:

When in actual fact, after driving out of Melbourne and navigating the freeways for the first time behind the wheel (in this situation, not driving in general… just so we are clear) we arrived in the dark on a Friday evening at our destination. Stepping out of the car, the crisp clean winter air from the country could have summed up how different it was to where we just drove from. The soft lights amongst the trees framed the reception and restaurant, its big glass windows asking us to enter. So we did. We were greeted by a lovely lady who treated us like we were old friends, and we were immediately escorted along a gravel path and along next to some cottages to our own little home for the weekend. There was a duck (a fake one) at our front door and you could flip the sign around saying “Do Not Disturb”. He was immediately named the Privacy Duck.

The cottage looked across the lake and it was perfectly heated and had a classic and clean country feel about it. We left our bags and said goodbye to them, promising them we would be back later in the evening. Driving into the town of Daylesford we found a nice little restaurant to eat for the night (our dinner at the Lake House was booked in for the following night). An IGA on the way back from the restaurant provided me with some Ginger Wine. Classy night all round really, especially when it didn’t fit in the bar fridge so I kept it on the floor beside my bed.

Waking up the next morning, part of the package was breakfast at the Lake House every morning, and this was to be one of my highlights of the trip.

This was where I would experience the fantastic hospitality of the restaurant staff and the beautiful views across the lake. We could order anything we would like from our heads pretty much that was breakfasty. Both mornings I was pretty daring and asked for scrambled eggs, and low and behold, scrambled eggs arrived. I heard others ordered such things as waffles and omelettes. On top of the requests from the kitchen was the best buffet breakfast I have ever seen from the breads and home made cereals to the large bowl of freshly whipped maple syrup butter. There was one of those automated industrial toasters that has a conveyor belt. I always have a fight with them as I am too impatient and speed it up and then it drops off the other side and I lose it under the toaster. The view was beautiful, we saw the mist coming off the lake and a few local kookaburras were on the railing outside waiting for an obvious little breakfast from the staff. They flew away satisfied, as did we, off to walk around the lake. This was the second highlight.

Anyone who comes to visit Daylesford, I bring my megaphone out. Walk around the lake.

That afternoon another part of the package was a massage at Salus, the Day Spa at the Lake House. Really draining day I’d say.  It was another fantastic experience, walking out of there as calm as a turtle in tropical waters with no sharks nearby.

So evening came around and we entered the Lake House for our dinner. The atmosphere here was so very different and a new kind of beauty came out after dark. We were shown the corner window table, that was away from most of the other tables and it was not a tough decision once the menus arrived, there was a vegetarian degustation listed. The next three hours flew by with our fantastic host presenting dish after dish of intricate and creative courses, all from locally sourced produce. I love that it was such a seasonal and fresh menu. I won’t go on too much about it as I will once again start sounding like I run my own weekend TV show about the best dining experiences in Victoria, with montages of extreme close ups of steak and wine. It was one of the best nights of my year, as I had great conversation and great food and wine. We weren’t even sad we missed half of X-Men 2 that we had planned to watch that night, the crazy party going people we were.

After another quality sleep, and another breakfast that made me grin, we said goodbye to Privacy Duck and the Lake House. We began the drive back to Melbourne, but before that, we stopped in on the local markets grabbing some local produce such as olives and veggies. A weekend I won’t be forgetting anytime soon and would go back and do it all over again exactly the same, but maybe not argue with the toaster.

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