Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eltham (and surrounds) Restaurants

Eltham? Hey groovy man! Far out! Beaten earth walls, mud brick huts, footpaths at 45 degrees and a chain to help you get up your driveway, gum trees, creeks, alternative schools, Montsalvat, bongs, beanies and the occassional estate of an Italian businessman with a vineyard, right hand drive Cadillac and concrete cherubs weeing into their kidney shaped pools as an affirmation of culture and still functioning kidneys.

Sound familiar? Well that's what Eltham USED to be like in the nineties. It's all still true, but now there's so much more, including a few little culinary gems that our star insider Vikki let me know about.

I'm passing these on, in case you're out that way, and also before I lose the scrap of paper I scrawled these on... while in no way accepting responsibility for any negative vibes you might pick up if they do, in fact, have cattle pooh rendered walls.

Want a fancy feed out Eltham way? Read on.

410 Main Rd, Lower Plenty VIC 3093
Reservations: 03 9439 9941
Dinner: Tuesday - Sunday
Lunch: Wednesday - Sunday

OK, it's not in Eltham. As you drive from Templestowe towards Eltham, take the first left after you've gone through the big roundabout and have crossed the bridge into Eltham - heading out to Lower Plenty. You've come this far, and what are a few kms between friends?

Element is a restaurant located in an old house on a hill, and their menu features seasonal produce (what's in season and cheap), like all good restaurants, with an eye to fancy pants dishes like duck, oysters, and crispy pork with a modern twist.

Take your cholesterol-reducing-fibre supplement and go there. Vikki gives it two thumbs up!

732 Main Road
Phone/Fax: (03) 9431 1015

An insitution in Eltham, it's been there for years and has consistently gotten a hat from the Age Good Food Guide, this place was ironically also continually referred to as "the Old Institute" by Vikki. Hmm.

Further pressing of the web site and Google failed to reveal what the exact nature of the Old Institute was, the technical college or perhaps an experimental loony bin, but it is located in an historic Federation cottage.

The main chef is Stephen Mercer, hence the name, and apparently it's THE traditional fancy place to go when habituing the leafy north east of Melbourne. Vikki gives it one and a half thumbs up.


Brownkorte on Evelyn County Estate.
55 Eltham-Yarra Glen rd,
Kangaroo Ground - VIC 3097, Australia
Tel: (+61) 3 9437 2155

My first reaction on hearing the name of this restaurant was "WTF?", immediately followed by an "Ah-ha!" moment as I recalled an old dry cleaner down in the South East of Melbourne called Brown Gouge... which always made me wonder how one would remove a brown gouge stain from a duvet, and how it got there in the first place.

The restaurant is named after the two owner chefs, Gordon Brown (not that one), and Martin De Korte. The building is modern and trendy, with a green swooshy roof. If you've ever heard the phrase "Never trust a skinny cook" (I used it in my last blog), you can leave these guys the keys to your Bentley, lodge your tax with them and introduce them to your naive yet strangely wandering virginal daughter.

OK - you got me, this one's not in Eltham either, it's in Kangaroo Ground, but the food looks droolingly good and again it get's a cheery recommendation from Vikki (I don't want to commit any more to how many thumbs she gave anything).

Phone: (03) 9439 7712
Fax: (03) 9431 4177
7 Hillcrest Ave. Eltham Victoria 3095
Melways Map: 22 A8
Bus 582 from Eltham Station

It's amazing how much you can write about restaurants without ever having ever been to them (see above), so I'd feel it remiss to not at least mention my favourite place to go when in Eltham - Montsalvat.

Montsalvat was set up as an artists' commune by Justus Jörgensen, who bought the land in 1935 and with his friends painted up a storm and built European style castles. It's "Australia's oldest artists colony", for whatever that's worth, and while I can't attest to its gastronomic excellence, my good friends Em Carlile and Johnny Simon (and half of Melbourne) got married there, so it's a place of singularly fond memories for me.

Montsalvat is all about the 12 acres of artiness and old school European aesthetics. Those foxy morons Kath and Kim recently filmed part of their new movie "Kath and Kimberella", due for release in September this year.

The restaurant at Montsealvat is called 'the Meeting Pool' and it's current chef (he doesn't use currants) is Paul Phelan, though I see Sigmund Jorgensen is involved heavily (he had a hand in 80's 3 hat restaurant Clichy and is, no doubt, an antecedent of Justus). The restaurant uses a lot of produce grown on the estate, as well as sourcing local produce like yabbies, so it definitely gets a green tick.

I give Montsavlat six tentacles, just because of its grounds. That's all you'll need. Go when the weather's nice, as the sun goes down.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Simple Please

Hello! I've been meaning to post these pics for a while under the category of the simple pleasures: in life and in the kitchen. The food is simple too: cooking in the Florentine style - of a few things done well, or simple foods in their natural states... as opposed to the Bologna style which is "more ingredients please".

The photos were taken on a telephone using the tilt-shift generator app, that sneaky filter that either makes everything on ads look like toy town, and food like it's from Donnah Hay magazine. But how to rustle up a quick meal with minimum fuss? Read on...

I heard recently from my friend Dharamjot (aka Chloe - "Hi!") that, while they're all vegetarian on the ashram in Malaysia, they do have two kitchens; the inside kitchen for low mess cooking (read salads) and the out door kitchen which is all about mess (i.e. deep frying of vegetarian spitty foods).

This is about the most useful explanation I've ever heard for why BBQs are so great; smokey smells can just blow away, while fat can spit on the ground and let the ants have all the fun. I basically make the BBQ my stove when down at the beach.

To Marinate, Or Not to Marinate?
When I lived in Canberra, I lived in an unusual household with the only son of a preacher. His freckly, lawyer girlfriend brought around vacuum-packed, whole eye fillet sides from her father's abattoir on a monthly basis. I ate with them, with an uneasy conscience: I was dirt poor at the time BUT ALSO believed them to be cannibal witches as it looked a bit like human flesh and appeared after each full moon.

We would whip up marinades of beer, oil, sauce and spices and get to it.
For years I was convinced that all meat should be marinated. How wrong you can be.

If you must marinate, my only advice is to not marinate the meat too long – you'll wind up with a steak that eats like soggy tissues – and watch the sugar levels in the sauces you include, as sugar tends to burn and turn your meat black.

I seldom marinate these days. Instead, just rub the meat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Boring, easy to do and fantastic.

OTHER TOP TIPS? Only cook the steak once on each side (to seal), on a high heat. Times vary depending on the thickness, but always underestimate as it will keep cooking off the grill. As preached by the orthodox and contemporary science of steak cooking, allow the meat to rest wrapped in foil or a clay pot (I've got a great one from my Godmother) for fifteen minutes. The meat will keep cooking, and the flesh will "relax" (after "tensing" on the heat).

Herbed Butters
The steak in the picture has been augmented with a tarragon butter (why am I beginning to suspect that this blog is going to appear as evidence into the inquest of my death?). Let the butter soften at room temperature (about half a block), then mash through a clove of crushed garlic and sprigs of finely chopped tarragon (the prince of herbs). Roll the mash in Glad Wrap™, then refrigerate till ready. Cut discs off the roll and pop on your rested steak.

Pictured above are included:
Sweet Potato Chips: cut the chips (thick), rub with oil and the usual magic grits (salt and pepper). Cook on the grill on direct heat for five minutes or so on each side to give them some colour, before putting on the upper shelf with the lid down on a moderate heat to bake through for twenty minutes to half an hour. Yum!

: You can BBQ these whole with the leaves on, until the leaves are burnt, and then pull off the outer layers (just like an Aztec!) or try trimming the corn into bite sized chunks, rub with oil and smokey paprika, then cook on each end, turning regularly. You'll get burnt kernels on the ends, but the bits in the middle will be perfect.

The Jamie Oliver Salad
: So what if he's 110kg and being called a "big fat fatty" by the media? He grew up cooking in pubs, and it's common knowledge you should "never trust a skinny cook".
Jamie Oliver's got a great rule for salads, which goes: "crispy, soft, herby, veg, crunchy, cheese, dressing". Basically, pick one of each and combine: e.g. crispy cos hearts, soft butter lettuce, fresh basil, tomato, feta cheese, and toasted pine nuts with a lemon dressing (1 part lemon juice, 3 parts olive oil, S&P). Check out his Ministry of Food cookbook. It's a winner! You can never miss.

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