Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hot cheddar & pickled jalapeno dip

December 11, 2016

Almost inevitably, the much-hyped cookbook from local favourites Smith & Daughters was part of Cindy's birthday present this year. It was no surprise - I'd had to tell Cindy to hold off buying it herself so that we didn't double up. To add to the birthday excitement, I threw in an offer to cook up Cindy's choice of dishes for the night.

It wound up being quite a feast - hot cheddar and pickled jalapeno dip to start, artichoke and chickpea salad for main, horchata to drink and melon salad with pickled pineapple and jalapeno for dessert. The horchata wasn't a complete success (I think our food processor doesn't quite have the power to get the rice liquidised properly), but everything else was a hit. Cindy loved the pickled pineapple when we tried the fruit salad for brunch last February, and we've already made it again - the blend of sweet, spicy and sour flavours is incredible. The artichoke salad was similarly great, another dish we loved in the restaurant that lived up to our memories.

The star of the night though was the hot cheddar and jalapeno dip, which again we'd been impressed by at the restaurant. It's surprisingly easy to throw together - one pot and about 10 minutes and you've got a gooey, cheesy, slightly spicy dip that's perfect for dunking chips in or pouring over just about anything else. We'll just reproduce the cheddar dip here - I'm sure we'll add a few more recipes in dribs and drabs over the coming months, but you'd do well to duck out and grab this book for yourself.

Hot cheddar & pickled jalapeno dip
(from Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse's Smith & Daughters Cookbook)

125g margarine
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup plain flour
2 cups soy milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
300g shredded vegan cheese (we used the Biocheese cheddar shred)
100g pickled jalapenos, diced
1/3 cup jalapeno pickle juice
1 teaspoon salt

Melt the margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cumin and stir everything together, cooking for a minute or so.

Add in the flour stirring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes or so, making sure it stays reasonably smooth and doesn't brown.

Slowly add the soy milk, whisking constantly to keep things smooth. Add in the mustard, nutritional yeast, cheese, jalapenos, pickle juice and salt and stir everything together. Once the cheese melts you should have a thick, gooey dip - add more water if it's too thick or cook for a bit longer if it's too runny.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rue de Creperie

December 11, 2016

Rue de Creperie sits in that strip of Brunswick St that's full of veg*n eateries. It's not entirely vego but their street board promises vegan options. They really deliver, too - the savoury galette batter is vegan and gluten free, and the sweet crepe batter is always vegan, with a surcharged gluten-free option. Toppings are above and beyond the usual - they've got vegan cheese, icecream, chocolate sauce and caramel on hand, yielding more than a dozen options all up (majority sweet).

For all that, our touring friend went for the classic lemon and sugar crepe ($9) - like all the sweet vegan crepes, it comes with a scoop of coconut Zebra Dream icecream.

Michael stuck steadfastly to savoury for breakfast, ordering a galette filled with mushrooms, spinach and sufficiently-melty vegan cheese ($12).

In contrast to my milder-mannered companions, I went all out with a Thailand special ($13): a parcel stuffed with bananas, liberally spread with soy condensed milk, topped with a scoop of coconut icecream. It was incredibly sweet and utterly delightful.

The atmosphere at Rue de Creperie is low-key and welcoming, I reckon this is a place where you can relax and chat a while. There's so much more I want to go back for: the Stawberry Heaven, Banana Split, Salted Caramel, the Pear Belle.... Given how allergen-friendly the menu is, I should have no trouble rounding up friends to join me. 


Rue de Creperie has already won fans in blogs TRAVELLYANLatitude Liv and Fire & Tea.

Rue de Creperie
360 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
0452 228 265
crepes & galettes, drinks

Accessibility: There is a small lip on the doorway. Tables are densely arranged with a wide, clear corridor through the middle. We ordered at our table and paid at a medium-height counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Snug Public House

December 10, 2016

We had a good time checking out the new vegan options at The Snug in Brunswick and heard rumours that the St Kilda branch was even more impressive. Cindy and another friend scheduled their big joint birthday dinner there so we could check it out - we filled up a couple of the outside tables on a busy Saturday evening.

The menu is ridiculous - more than 50 vegan or veganisable dishes with an emphasis on mock meat and fried food (although there are a handful of healthier options if you're that way inclined). Think The Cornish Arms with a bit more traditional Irish pub food.

We kicked things off with a round of fried treats for the table. The battered sausages ($10) are more batter than sausage - gloriously oily lumps of fried that are not for the faint hearted. I ate more than my fair share of these, which left me struggling by the time the meals came out later.

Things got even more intense from there with - clockwise from top left - popcorn chicken in BBQ sauce ($10), Texan loaded fries ($14) and the chicken wings ($14). The wings didn't quite measure up to the glory of The Cornish's version, but the ridiculously loaded fries (topped with bbq pork, pineapple salsa and sour cream) and the BBQ popcorn chicken were ace.

I was struggling to breathe by this point, so the arrival of the main meals was a bit overwhelming. The Irish parma ($21) arrived topped with parsley cream, kale and rice paper bacon all astride a ludicrously big serve of mashed potatoes.

This was a solid performer - the parma itself was probably just something from the supermarket freezer, but the toppings were great and the meal was impossibly large. 

We also ordered a southern fried chicken burger ($18), which was a straightforward combo of a spicy chicken patty and some chipotle slaw, alongside another massive serve of chips. I really liked the burger, but I was so full I couldn't really do it justice. 

One of our friends skipped out on all the salty action and decided to have dessert for dinner - her banoffee pie with chocolate shavings, ice cream and banana fritters ($12) was a hit, but dessert seems like an impossible dream for anyone brave enough to order one of the mains here.

We capped the night off with a wander down to the St Kilda breakwater, which was positively teeming with little penguins - it's crazy to find this thriving colony so close to the city. It was the perfect way to end the night.

There are a huge range of vegan options at The Snug and we definitely had more hits than misses among our big group. The prices aren't super cheap, but the portions are crazily large and the service is friendly. It's a welcome south-side addition to the city's vegan pub scene. 

We enjoyed dinner at the Brunswick branch of the SnugThe Rose and Bean and Veganopolous have reviewed the vegan food at St Kilda.

The Snug Public House 
12 Fitzroy St, St Kilda
9534 4678
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway into a pretty crowded interior. The tables in the outdoor area are up a few steps. We ordered and paid at a high bar and didn't visit the toilets.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Transformer III

December 9, 2016

In December an old friend returned to Melbourne for a week. She's vegan, and was equally excited to revisit her old faves (Yong, Casa Del Gelato) and catch up with the new veg eateries that have popped up in the past 3 years. We booked in a Friday night dinner at Transformer as part of the latter project. 

To ensure a good spread across the menu, we took our first shot at the chef-selected Feed Me option ($55 per person on a Friday, without dessert) and requested that everything be vegan.

While we picked drinks, we grazed on a small plate of mixed olives, roast peppers, pickled garlic for the brave, and a little chilli. We also scooped up the dip plate with gusto; it was a savoury-creamy arrangement of white bean dip, artichokes and caperberries with an impressively doughy gluten-free flatbread. The bread was pretty great dredged through the olive's marinade too!

These appetisers were rapidly followed with salads. The first was a study in astringency - fennel, grapefruit wedges, green olives, bitter leaves, a vinegar-based dressing and super-salty green wafers. The beetroot carpaccio was very mellow by comparison, crowned with a ball of cooling vegan labneh.

The steamed buns were perfectly balanced on their own, featuring battered tofu, pickled cucumbers and gochujang mayo.

We happily gorged on greens, too! Fat, juicy asparagus spears were flavoured with concentrated little sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms and topped with watercress; broccolini was simply steamed, then scattered with pumpkin seeds and barberries, teamed with more vegan cheese.

We were ready to conclude there, but the meal's main dish was yet to arrive. It centred on melt-in-the-mouth cumin-braised eggplant in a pool of chemoula, crested with quinoa crisps. A three-rice pilaf with sprouted lentils, chickpeas, pomegranate seeds and fried onion helped us sop up all the sauce.

While individual dishes at Transformer always look expensive, we were satisfied with the quantity of food on the Feed Me menu. We thought the summer selection was dud-free, and all nominated different favourites. In fact, at the end of a week's dedicated vegan feasting, our friend circled back on this as her favourite meal. 

I'd report just one misfire in the service. We'd booked an early table that needed to be vacated by 8pm. I was aware of this when booking, and on arrival the front of house told the three of us again, once each, and our waiter mentioned it two-to-three more times at the table. Even when they're politely delivered, hearing "please leave by 8pm!" six-to-seven times had me feeling less than welcome.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed our night at Transformer immensely and it impressed our out-of-town guest even more than we'd hoped. It'll be at the forefront of our minds for future fancy veg dining.

You can also read about one, two of our previous visits to Transformer. Since then it's received positive coverage on Couchfoodiesquinces and kalekT eats worldFire & TeaSkinny GluttonChampagne & Chips (a partial freebie) and lillytales. There are more negative accounts on Chasing a PlateA Chronicle of Gastronomy and Eats By DonutSam.

99 Rose St, Fitzroy
9419 2022

Accessibility: The entry is wide and with a shallow ramp. Tables are well spaced, a mix of mid-height tables with booths and backed chairs, plus higher tables with backless bar stools. There's full table service. The toilets are highly accessible - individual unisex cubicles with marked wheelchair and ambulent options.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Bank Street Wood Fired Pizza & Garden

December 3, 2016

Until last month all I knew of Avenel was its Hume Freeway roadhouse, a stop on the bus route between Melbourne and Albury. Now this town is home to one of my aunts, and she proudly showed us round one weekend in December. We missed the nearby Xmas Twilight Market by a day, and instead walked along the Goulburn River before dining at Bank Street Wood Fired Pizza & Garden.

This pizzeria is hardly a local secret. Not only does it appear in local tourist guides, but it's attracted reviews in the city newspapers and definitely requires a reservation on a Saturday night. They make a good first impression - the side-path entry leads to a view of a lovely back garden, before you can let yourself into the renovated bank building to be warmly welcomed by one of the staff. Although they were evidently busy, they didn't mind running through food and wine details with us and everything was served with a smile.

As you'd expect, the menu is dominated by pizza. Vegans and coeliacs will find little-to-nothing that's meant for them, but us dairy-eating vegos are well catered to. Michael was most impressed by Michelle's Magic Mushrooms pizza ($21), which had a heady whiff of truffle oil and some smoked scamorza cheese.

I declared the Smooshed Potato pizza ($21) to be the best potato pizza I've ever eaten. The spud-smashing provides both fluffy bites and crispy golden fragments, and they're interspersed with pungent King River Gold cheese, bubbled parmesan, and fragrant sprigs of rosemary.

We shared a rocket-parmesan salad ($14), since rosemary just barely counts as a green vegetable.

We were having such a good time that we agreed to stow away the last few pizza slices for later, and share a round of dessert. A dolce pizza (filled with Nutella or mixed berries) was out of the carby question but a serve of Cal's Tiramisu ($11) still seemed on theme. It was a hefty, homely serve and I took responsibility for enjoying every last mouthful, even after the other two were defeated. The lemon slice (~$10) couldn't beat Carol's and my shared memory of the one at Albert St Food & Wine, but it was a respectable rendition.

Bank Street is a real charmer, casual yet special. Their menu style would fit inner-city Melbourne with its artisan name-dropping, but it's underpinned by a love of local produce and you won't find garden-sourced ingredients or gorgeous outdoor seating like this in Carlton.

Bank St Pizza has also been positively reviewed on Melbourne Din(n)ing Blog.

Bank St Wood Fired Pizza & Garden
5 Bank St, Avenel
5796 2522
facebook page

Accessibility: Entry requires making your way along the driveway and up a small step out back (see pictures above). Indoor seating is densely packed with a clear corridor through the middle. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.