MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

Helping you add flavour to this wonderful city.

Archive for the ‘Melbourne Happenings’ Category

Spring Lazy Grazing @ The Commoner

with 3 comments

In Winter, I had thoroughly enjoyed Melbourne Food and Wine’s Put Victoria on your table Roast Collection festival, so when I was excited when I saw that to wave good bye to the winter blues, Melbourne Food and Wine was putting on a Spring Graze festival.

Full listing of events.

The event that most appealed to me was the Saturday Lazy Grazing at the Commoner.

“Join us at The Commoner for Lazy Grazing in September in the form of plates of beautiful seasonal Victorian produce to share with people you like.
Celebrate Spring and the best that Victoria has to offer. It has been an awfully long winter… Why don’t you say goodbye to it in style….”

When Lunch every Saturday in September.

Cost $55.00 Food cost per head

I had been to the Commoner a couple of years ago and had been extremely impressed. I’m not sure why it took me so long to go back, because my memories of the place were of fantastic food  and  exceptional service.

We nestled into the small but very homely little cafe. I love the way the place is fitted out, with exposed brick, heavy wooden tables and random yet thoughtful trinkets and tools adorning the walls and shelves.

It doesn’t feel like you’re at a restaurant or cafe, it feels more like you’ve entered into someone’s home.

The waitress began by asking us if there was anything we didn’t eat – to which we all shook our heads.

One of the many reasons I love these friends – we all love our food and we’re not picky.

We started with a lovely bottle of French wine – a  2009 Bernard Defaix, Petit Chablis which was recommended to us by the waitress. It went down surprisingly well considering we had all been out for A’s birthday the night before and we were all somewhat a little worse for wear.

The first course –

Boccerones - Sicilian white anchovies with sweet pepper, aioli and parsley

These were delightful. After we had all shaken our heads to our lack of dietary requirements, M exclaimed that she didn’t eat anchovies. I normally would say I don’t eat anchovies either, as I hate the fishy salty flavour of standard anchovies.

These however, were not your regular anchovies – they lacked that yukky unappetising fishiness, rather – they were really light and delicious. It was complimented well with the aioli and the perfectly roasted sliver of capsicum. A simple, yet perfectly executed dish – a nice refreshing way to began our meal.

house bread

The house bread was toasted and very moreish and came served with olive oil and toasted sesame.

smoked cod dip, mount zero olives, roasted spring vegetables

Our second course – the smoked cod dip was wonderful, and the spring vegetables which included baby carrots, spring onion, asparagus and red onion were perfectly executed.

To quote A “Who would have thought that carrots could taste so good”.

house black pudding, potato tortilla

Onto our next course – the house black pudding.

Black pudding is one of those things that can be hit or miss. Being a sausage made out of blood it is very easy for this dish to be overpowering. Black pudding is something I very rarely order because it can often have a very strong ‘iron-y’ flavour to it, though I am always game to try it, particularly at great eateries because when done well it can be fantastic as it was at Attica.

This specimen certainly did not disappoint – lightly pan-fried to perfection to produce a crisp crust encasing insides which had a wonderfully smooth texture – so smooth it seemed almost like pate.  This paired well to the tortilla, which despite being potato based was not heavy at all.

Pan fried semolina gnocchi, fresh peas, broad beans, goats curd

The next course was probably my favourite – the  gnocchi was delicious, again pan-fried to create a perfect crust,  and resting above a cloud of light fluffy goats curve and sprinkled with fresh peas and broad beans.

The goats curd was neither heavy nor stinky, but light and delicious, and my god were the peas good. I’ve always enjoyed peas – but so rarely eat fresh peas (I’m not sure why!). They had the perfect texture, and just ‘popped’ in your mouth when you ate them. When I was a child I loved peas, particularly the peas in snow-peas, but I hated the pod they rested in, so much to my father’s horror I would suck the peas out, then put the pod back. Thankfully I’m a little older and a little less picky now. The broadbeans were also delicious – I thought I hated broadbeans! but I think I just hate dried broadbeans which are salty and yuck.

roast lamb served with house yogurt

And onto our main course – and another bottle of wine – the 2008 Pennyweight Shiraz from Beechworth.

I’m not a huge fan of lamb, so when I have a lamb I enjoy I’m always impressed.

This one was amazing, perfectly cooked to pink perfection, but the ribs were the star. Seriously, so so good. The house yogurt perfectly complimented the lamb, which was also served with a spicy harissa which gave a wonderful kick and roast jeruselum articles cooked with rosemary.

jeruselum artichoke, harissa

tangerine tart

Our final dish – we each received individual tangerine tarts which consisted of pieces of tangerine resting on custard encased in perfect pastry. And by perfect, I mean perfect. This is the best tart pastry I have ever had, it was thin and wonderfully crispy, such that we could hit the pastry with the back of our spoons and it would crack! And it tasted amazing – not overly sweet, but simply perfect. The custard was light and smooth and whilst I didn’t love it, everyone else in our party loved it.

chocolate coated candied grapefruit

To finish off, we were given a few pieces of candied grapefruit which had been covered in dark chocolate.

A wonderful meal, we all left very satisfied and extremely pleased. Excellent value for only $55, it was the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday.

On the bill – our meals were listed as “Feed me.”

I love this concept of letting the restaurant take the reigns and just being fed. I was recently called a control freak by one of my friends – maybe sometimes I am a bit bossy when it comes to where and what we eat – though I do love giving restaurants free-reign to just “feed me”. Provided the restaurant is deserving ;).

The commoner do something similar for Sunday dinner I believe – I can’t wait to try it!


Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 8.5. Food was delicious.

Value: 8.5. You’d be hard-pressed getting the quality of the food for what we did for $55. Events like these at restaurants are generally great value.

Service: 9.0. Personable, but not in your face. Nothing to fault.

Atmosphere: 9.0. Great little dining room, like I said earlier, it really felt like you were in someone’s home.

Overall: 9.0. Love it. I’ll make sure I won’t leave it another two years before I return.

122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

Phone: 03 9415 6876


Hours: Wed-Fri Dinner 6:00pm-Late
Sat-Sun  Lunch 12:00pm- 3:00pm
Dinner 6:00pm- Late

Written by glutamatejess

September 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Comedy Festival

leave a comment »

The beginning of the year is my favourite time of the year in Melbourne.

The weather is great, the days are long, the city is alive and buzzing with a festivals and fun.

The Comedy Festival is one of my favourite parts of this festival season. I absolutely adore the comedy festival, I love the vibe in the city, particularly around the Festival hub, which is centred around The Melbourne Town Hall, and spreading to the various other venues dotted throughout the city and beyond.

Every year, since 2003 I have tried to see several shows a year. When I like something, I become somewhat obsessed. I walk talk and breathe Comedy Festival for the entirety of the three and a half weeks  it runs for.

Last year I was fortunate enough to participate in the Funny Tonne, a competition run by the Festival to see as many shows as I could. It was a fantastic, albeit exhausting experience given I was working full time and trying to juggle my social life as well. Sadly to say, I came a miserable last, but I had heaps of fun doing it regardless. My grand total came to 88 shows, a dismal last place behind the winner Joseph (who has his own show this year from what I hear) who totalled something like 132.

The best thing about being part of the Funny Tonne is getting to see some shows which I normally would not have, and to be surprised by shows that I otherwise would not have seen as I  thought they would have been shit, such as Nina Conti & the Kransky Sisters.

This year, the festival is back, but I’m back to paying for tickets. Which is fine, because I’m more than happy to support the comedians, as they bring such joy to my life 🙂

I’m a bit disappointed a few of my festival faves aren’t back, such as Daniel Kitson, The Boy with Tape on his Face, and Tim Minchin.. and still no sign of Demetri Martin after taking out the Barry Award for his sold out (i.e. I could not get tickets to) show in 2008.

Here are a list of my recommendations though..

Must Sees;

Gooks & Wogs 2 – Return of Choco and the Chink – Saw Gooks & Wogs 1, was my favourite show of the Festival last year. Any ethnic should go see it. Absolutely brilliant.

Sam Simmons – Fail – His shows are a mishmash of random yet hilarious vignettes, which he pulls along and ties together at the end. Comic genius. Love him.  Also in the beautiful Bosco Theatre, my favourite festival venue.

Adam Hills – Mess AroundAlways a crowd pleaser, sadly I do not have tickets for him as he sold out before the Festival even began! That’s what I get for procrastinating getting tickets.. 😦 I love taking my ‘nice’ friends to Adam Hills as he shows that you can be funny without having to be rude or obscene.

Wil Anderson – Wilful Misconduct– Forget everything you know about Wil Anderson from TV and radio. He is an absolute star as a stand-up. Love him, my favourite local comedian, I see him every year.

Nina ContiI thought she would be shit, I thought the ventriloquist act was lame. I was wrong. She proved me wrong. One of my favourite shows from Season 2009, seeing her next week.

The Bedroom Philosopher – Songs from the 86 tram– Any Melbourne local should see this incredibly witty show, as the bedroom philospher sings tunes about the various destinations along the 86 Tram line. Show was cut short last year as he was hit by a tram. As he says, Irony 1. BP 0.

Ross Noble – whether you love him or hate him, he’s a comic genius. I didn’t want to like him. I saw him three years ago and have seen more than a hundred other shows since, and his show still stands out in my mind. I fell asleep because he rambled so much. and I laughed so hard I cried. so hard I almost peed my pants. All in the one show. Brilliant.

Highly Recommended;

David O’Doherty – David O’Doh-Party always a festival favourite, charming, witty, nonsensical.

Jamie Kilstein – Revenge of the Serfs– up & coming comedian, he’s energetic, opinionated, controversial.

The Pajama Men – Last Stand to Reason– Brilliant, dynamic duo. Barry award winners 2009.

Reginald D Hunter – He usually starts his show joking that he’s ‘the other Black man’, i.e. not Steven K Amos. I think Reg is better than Steven though. Underrated, whereas Steven is overrated. (Steven is absent from this year’s festival)
The Kransky Sisters – Three Bags FullAnother one of those random shows I didn’t expect to like. Very odd, but brilliant.

Haven’t seen, but heard good things about;

The List Operators, Jon Richardson, Melinda Buttle

We’re so lucky in Melbourne, to have the second biggest Comedy Festival in the world. All I can say is… get involved! You won’t regret it..

Written by glutamatejess

March 29, 2010 at 1:09 am

Posted in Melbourne Happenings

Tagged with

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2010

leave a comment »

Beer Vs Wine

Portland Hotel and James Squire Brewhouse
127 Russel Street (Cnr Russell and Little Collins)
Melbourne 3ooo
9810 0064

I don’t really get into the Food and Wine Fest, much to the surprise of many that know me as I love my food and I love my wine. However, there just aren’t that many events that appeal to me; I’d rather go experience the restaurants during a regular time of year where the dishes aren’t produced in mass for a hefty price tag. Having said that, reading other blogger’s write-ups of some of the events of the food and wine fest show me that perhaps I am wrong. I wish I had been more involved, perhaps next year when I feel a little less poor I may be more keen to fork out the $$ for the events.

I do have a very good friend (who is also very organised) who arranged for us to catch up over a lunch at the Portland Hotel. And I have to say I’m very glad he did, as it was a great experience, and excellent value at only $65 for a five course meal paired with a glass of wine and a pot of beer for each. The description for the event is as follows

“Join the team at The Portland as we pitch the Malt Shovel Brewery’s James Squire range of beers against wines from Mitchelton made by Australian Young Winemaker of the Year, Ben Haines. Matched to five sumptuous courses prepared by The Portland Hotel’s head chef, Rob Elliot, you decide which matches best.”

After registration, Appetizers were brought out. Unfortunately I have no photos of the appetizers as I left my memory card at home. They consisted of;

Tasmanian oysters; saffron oyster stew with chive essence
W.A. Scallops; rinded aged cheddar mornay
Victorian mussels; pancetta, coriander & garlic gratin

These were paired with

James Squire Golden Ale and 2009 Blackwood Park Riesling

The scallops were tasty in a nice creamy cheesy sauce, but the mussels were delicious! I had several of these; they had a nice south-east Asian zing to them. Unfortunately I did not get to try one of the oysters (they went quickly) but they must have been delicious as one of my dining companions loved it – even though he hates oysters..!

The only real gripe I have with this day was that things were somewhat disorganised to begin with; we did not really know what was going on; food just came around and we were given the choice of beer or wine. We all went beers for starters and did not get the wine match, so I can only comment on the beer match. Perfect with the mussels, mussels and beer truly are a match made in heaven. The scallops were perhaps a bit cheesy for the beer match.

After appetizers and a dash to Target to buy a new memory card (yes I am a dedicated food geek), we were sat down and we were introduced to our hosts who would be showing us through our beer and wine matches for the rest of the day.

Entree consisted of

Cripsy duck and wonton stack: with water spinach, candied chilies, sticky soy and sesame oil dressing.

Matched with: James Squire Pilsner and 2006 Mitchelton Crescent Grenache Mourvedre Shiraz

This was a very tasty dish, nice south-east Asian flavours, though a little salty from the wonton stacks. The beer match worked well as the pilsner was very floral and highlighted the sweet and spicey flavours of the dish. The wine match I thought was too heavy, a real shame as I feel this dish would have been much better matched with a lighter pinot. The wine alone was lovely, sweet yet robust with berry notes.

The main was shared between the table;

Oven roasted Hopkins River beef entrecote (Victoria grain fed 110 days) served with wattle seed jus & a selection of sides;

confit of shallot and kifler potatoes
roasted baby vegetables; carrot, beetroot, zucchini
steamed greens – broccoli, gai lan, green beans
salad of wild roquette, grana padano & pine nuts dressed with vincotto and aged olive oil

Paired with: James Squire Amber Ale & 2008 Mitchelton Shiraz

The steak was visually impressive, a big hunk of meat cooked medium on the bone, then cut into fat slices with the gravy next to it. My dining companions loved it, I thought it was slightly over-cooked (more medium well than medium), but a good piece of meat nevertheless. The sides were lovely, the potatoes particularly so.

The Shiraz went lovely with the steak. The beer was fine, but a good piece of meat paired with a nice full bodied red is pretty much a no-brainer.

We then moved onto Dessert;

Hot chocolate fondant; sour cherry & stout coulis, French vanilla bean ice cream

Paired with: James Squire Porter & Knappstein Vintage Port

The dessert was lovely, as you can see wonderful to split the pudding open and watch the chocolate sauce gush out. The cherry-stout coulis was delightful. We were instructed to take a bite of the pudding, then take a swig of the full-bodied porter and swig it around. This was eye-opening, the porter is not a beer I would normally drink as it is a extremely rich beer, similar to a stout. However, it is more delicate than your average stout, being creamier with hints of malt and chocolate. Because of this creamy chocolately-malt tones, it really brought the pudding to a new level. The Port wine worked ok, but was perhaps a bit too sweet and took away from rather than complemented the pudding.

If that wasn’t enough, we were then brought out a Cheese Selection of

Locheilan Kaarimba White Rind Brie: Based on Normandy Brief, earthy flavours, creamy finish
King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue: full flavoured blue with a sweet, slightly nutty character, a rich mouth feel and good aftertaste
Served  with water wafers, lavosh crisps, quince paste & fresh grapes

Matched with Mad Brewers Orchard Ale & 2010 Preece Moscato

The cheeses were ok, nothing to blow your mind away. Again, cheese & wine is bound to win; if there was any thing that wine was invented to complement, I would say it is cheese & steak. The sweetness of the moscato worked nicely with the blue; taking away some of its ‘stinkiness‘. This reminds me of my most surprisingy wine & cheese match I’ve ever had was pairing De Bortoli  Noble One wine with a blue cheese at the De Bortoli winery; normally the sticky syrupy wine is hard to have more than a little sip of, and I am normally very averse to blue cheese, but having the two together in my mouth opened up a new flavour explosion I did not know possible. Anyway, I diverge. What I mean to say is, Blue cheese & sweet wine. Love it.

Overall the lunch was a fantastic experience, my favourite type; educational, and fun. Was interesting to sit there and bounce ideas between the other diners, thinking about how to take a meal to the next level with good drink choices. Great value too, as the food was overall really tasty – 5 courses, 5 glasses of wine, 5 beers for $65. Our hosts indicated they may have more events like this one in the future.

We were well and truly stuffed by the end of it. Food (& booze) coma.

Written by glutamatejess

March 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm