Sunday, 28 December 2014

Eating: Yering Station, Yarra Glen

Yering Station

It's a beautiful restaurant space with high ceilings and large windows giving a wonderful dining atmosphere. The girls got all dressed up and had a sumptuous lunch here.

The complimentary bread and garlic spread was definitely a great way to start off the meal, the garlic spread was had a smooth and creamy finish.

My dish of the crispy skin barramundi, beetroot risotto, smoked mussels and baby leeks, was satisfactory overall. The fish was well cooked and moist. Unfortunately my particular fish was overcooked on the bottom. The promised crispy was a disappointment as it had more of a chew then a crunch. The overall flavours of the dish were a little plain. Originally the beetroot jelly, and beetroot risotto confused me as the jelly packed a raw punch to it, whereas the risotto was plain. Only when I mixed the jelly with the actual risotto did the flavours balance out.

The dish overall wasn't a terrible dish, but when you take into account the $40 price tag, it's not a dish I'd spend that sort of money on again.

The rest of the group had an overall positive experience but were not amazed by the food.

Entree: Roasted quail with pork stuffing and shallots. The breast was slightly overcooked, and was not deboned. The overall taste was good.

Entree: Wilhelmina rainbow trout, scallops, spring peas, yuzu. The girls found this one to be refreshing, with the pea puree providing a smooth and creamy texture.

Main: Duck breast, parfait, charred chorizo, cumquat gel. The duck meat was tender with a crispy skin.
Main: Blue eye, charred cos, buttermilk pomme puree, puffed sesame seeds. The fish was well cooked, but slightly bland flavours.

Main: Pumpkin and goat’s cheese cannelloni, manuka honey veloute. This was a tasty dish, but was lacking a large pumpkin presence.

Main: Eye fillet, roasted kohlrabi, horseradish, marrow, croquette. General consensus was that this was the best dish of the lot. The beef was well cooked with the creamy fatty marrow making it more decadent. The croquette was also a delicious addition with bits of pulled pork, lifting the dish to the next level.

Side: Thick cut chips, truffle hollandaise. One of the highlights with a crunchy exterior and fluffy interior. There is good distribution of the hollandaise sauce on the chips.

2013 Yering station village off dry riesling. Light and sweet fruity tastes, but not too sweet. I'm not a huge wine drinker but this was a refreshing glass.

In conclusion: I personally wasn't impressed by the dishes presented here. Once you weigh in the cost of each main and the time it takes to get here I wouldn't be persuaded to come back to this area just for this restaurant. 

If you've never been to this area before and want to do a day trip out to the region then it may be worth a drop in. I would recommend the eye fillet or duck breast with a side of chips.

Yering Station
38 Melba Highway
Yarra Glen 3775
(03) 9730 0100

Yering Station on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Snapshot of PAXAUS 2014

It's been a while since the weekend that was PAXAUS 2014. For those who don't know, it's a convention for all things games and game related. It only began last year, and this year it outdid itself at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

The excitement of PAXAUS for me lies in the almost festive and carnival like feel as you walk through the waiting hall and enter the garishly lit cavern that is the Expo hall. Brands blazed in bright spotlights, booths manned by developers, screens set up with demos. All these things induce head twitches left and right, as my body is swept along the aisles between booths. Too much to see and gape at. Isolated cases of surprise overwhelming body odour, that leave you cramping and gasping.

I don't know if you can, but I hope you will feel from my photos a little of the vast crowds that flock here for 3 days of the year.

There were many attempts this year to convert me into a LoLizen? LoLinite? LoLicon? with gifts of free codes. Cards against humanity proved so popular that they sold out of the base game on the Friday, with all expansions completely gone before the end of the convention. That in a nutshell friends is a snapshot of what the expo hall is like.

My favourites from the Expo Hall were in the ANZ Indie area.

Nippy Cats a nifty cute game, where you play as the ominous finger in control of a bag of catnip. Your role is to keep as many cats entertained for as long as possible without letting any of them get their claws into your little pouch. The challenge comes in the shape of little kitties zooming about on screen. You need to have an excellent spatial awareness and quick reflexes. Needless to say I have some of the first and none of the latter.

Merchants and Mercenaries is a PC game that is described to me as a cross between Settlers of Catan and Civilization. As I've never actually played Civilisation, I can't comment on that description. The game objectives is upgrade your little province faster than the other players and build a castle, then hold it for a certain period of time to win. How you go about upgrading your town is your own problem. You can mine, chop wood, farm, etc. and then go interact with the local market. What you sell or buy affects the prices in the near future, I think this phenomenon is called economics...

I managed to break it a few times, but it felt like it had a lot of promise and I actually enjoyed creating my own little land and messing with the other comp players.

This was the first year I attended panels. The ones I was lucky to make it to were well organised with short wait times, with a good variety of speakers. The Dragon Age one went right over my head, but I managed to grab some shut eye to charge up for the next few hours of PAX. Whilst the Cosplaying Celebrities panel started out very interesting with insight into the Cosplaying world that was all new to me. But towards the end the awkward audience questions became tedious and repetitive.

Through the Expo Hall, you'll find yourself in wide open spaces that is the Freeplay area. There is the huddle of the BYO PCs, the fences that separate the freeplay consolers, the retro gamers, and freeplay PC gamers, from the Boardgamers. As you enter the Board game and Minatures area, your parched soul is allowed to roam free among the rows upon rows of immaculately chic black draped tables. The Board game library is the shining gem is this oasis.

This is where the majority of my time at PAX was spent. Borrow any game that is available, and make yourself comfortable for the next few hours.

We met up with our board game group and tried out every game that we had ever had a burning desire to buy. The sort of games that we would have snatched up and paid good rent money for, if it wasn't for the slivers of our brain that also controlled things like budgeting and the judgement of food unfit for consumption.

Some board game highlights were, Kings of New York. Similar to Kings of Tokyo, but not different enough to justify purchasing. Stone Age plays like the Euro game Agricola but the art is beautiful, and the design of the map is a gorgeous exercise in, well, design. One Night Ultimate Werewolf plays like a version of the time old Mafia game, but on speed and fuelled by laughter. Camel Up is hilarious as well, with everyone making stupid bets on the best camel race of the previous previous last week!

I love the generous nature of fellow board gamers. Those who offered to teach us the rules of new games, those who were so happy to share what they love to play and why. Board gamers are such a social and easy going bunch. We are all poor together with our fortunes not in bonds and stocks, but in board games.

There's so much more to say, but I think this has been enough to trick... I mean, fool... I mean, persuade you to attend next years PAX. :)

It is exhausting and your feet ache, and you will get a headache, but it's all worth it.

I leave you with the cosplays I enjoyed. Either because the guy in the medieval armour reminded me of the game that doesn't take itself too seriously, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, or just cause. Thank you to the cosplayers who let me photograph them.

Disclaimer: I was not paid or bribed in any form to endorse any of these games. I attended PAXAUS as a member of the Public and I write this piece as a reflection of my own personal experience of the event.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Eating: Beletti, Dandenong


We decided on a whim to dine here once upon an early Saturday dinner. The restaurant is spacious and modern, but unfortunately due to our lack of a booking we were seated next to the entrance. Waiting staff were pleasant but service was a little slow, most likely due to our awkward seating location.

We started with the seafood skewers, served with cherry tomatoes and bocconcini cheese. The fish portions were well cooked, if that's the way you like your fish. I personally prefer it just done, not well done. The flavour was underwhelming, if there was more seasoning or a generous smattering of herbs it would have made it nicer. The prawns were the highlight for me, well seasoned with a good firm texture. The bocconcini did not belong on the dish, a different cheese would have given this dish more life. Overall, it gave the impression of a fresh light entree, which is perfectly fine in itself.

I wasn't too impressed with the Linguini di Mare. Maybe we ate on a night they just weren't performing well. The seafood was overcooked. Morton bay bug had the powdery texture, scallops rubbery. The pasta was overcooked and not the al dente I expect of most restaurants that offer anything pasta. The highlights of this dish was it's generous portion size, and the sauce. The sauce had strong hints of garlic, chilli, and parsley, but there just wasn't enough. The last few bites of linguini drenched in that sauce was delicious though.

We were similarly disappointed in the Beef Wellington. Once again the meat was under seasoned, and there was not enough sauce for the amount of pastry and meat. The pastry itself was thick, and got soggy very quickly. This offering was more like a beef parcel.

In conclusion:
Average Saturday night dinner. If you're in the area and looking for a place to eat food at and if you happen to also have the Entertainment book discount, then it's ok. There are other places who do this type of food in a better manner. Would not go out of my way to eat here. The best dish of the evening was the seafood skewer entree. 

161 Lonsdale Street
Dandenong 3175
(03)9793 1600

Beletti Restaurant Cafe Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gardening: Spring is in the air

Whenever I crouch in my garden and poke about the dirt, pet the leaves and smell that wet dirt smell, I get a sense being a part of something. That something is special, it's removed from the little nugatory squabbles of life.

The familiar sight of basil shyly shifting aside the dirt to warms its leaves. My hope is that this time it finds something nice here that it chooses to stay and maybe even flourish.

I cheated with the spring onions and leeks. Cut offs were delicately shoved into the ground, and thereby giving myself instant grown ups. I'm glad I didn't have to deal with their puberty years. I've got a few teen-onions in a separate naughty area, since they wouldn't behave themselves. 

I've been informed that tomatoes are not fussy at all, their only flaw is their unquenchable thirst. I don't know why but they still worry me. So I've been pampering her with the sunniest spot possible, even if it means grass may wilt to satisfy her needs.

Already I see signs of what I hope is the fruit of my labours. But first I'll have to fight off the slugs.

Speaking of slugs, they really love the coriander, I caught three the other night sneaking their slimy beings onto this pot. The outrage I felt! I could barely control it!

I'm pretty sure I only have those very same slugs to thank for the holes in my spring beans. I'm glad I learnt about slug pellets before I sowed the snap peas. I'm trying a technique I like to call "stagger-planting". No, it's not staggering around the garden after imbibing C2H4OH and then face planting. I'm hoping that if I plant beans at one weekly intervals it will mean I shall have a constant supply of perfectly ripening beans to eat.

Now thank you friends for enduring that nauseating gushing about my newborns. One can only hope that if I do it now it will stem the effusive flow of cooing when I have a newborn of the human variety.

I blame spring.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Baking: Lemon, Raspberry and Sour cream cake


To me this cake sings of spring, with the adorable stain of red raspberry on the top. The lemon and raspberry match well together, with the sour cream ensuring it remains moist. Eat on its own, eat with a cup of tea, eat with raspberry lemonade!

This has to be one of the easiest cakes I have ever had the pleasure to make. It follows the same basic principles as a tea cake. This is a good cake to teach others the technique of "creaming". It has an advantage over tea cake, in that it's much more delicious.

This adorable cake tin is currently selling at Aldi for under $10, and I just desperately wanted to try it out. It turns out this cake tin is the perfect size for a small afternoon tea treat. It will definitely see plenty of action in the future.

I followed the basic recipe from SBS food online, but I cut down on the sugar, added more lemon rind, changed the tin size, and so adjusted the baking temperature.

Lemon, Raspberry and Sour cream cake
Serving size: 18cm Bundt tin or 20cm round cake tin
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 40mins

- 125g soft butter
- Rind of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 100g sour cream
- 150g caster sugar
- 3 medium eggs at room temp.
- 50g frozen berries
- 150g (1cup) plain flour
- 60g self-raising flour

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius, and grease 18cm bundt tin with butter or canola oil
2. Cream butter and caster sugar together with electric mixer until pale yellow
3. Add one egg at a time, make sure to mix with electric mixer between each egg addition
4. Stir in lemon rind and juice with a wooden spoon
5. Shift the two flours together. Add a third of the flour mixture at a time, alternating with a third of the sour cream, folding ingredients into the batter between each addition.
6. Mix frozen berries with two teaspoons of caster sugar, add berries to the bottom of the bundt tin
7. Bake for 40mins at 160 degrees celsius, test at 35mins with a skewer to see if it's done (comes out clean then it's done, if comes out dirty it still requires another 10mins)
8. Leave to cool down completely before attempting to remove.
9. Remove from tin and eat! Feel free to dust with icing sugar or top with a cake glaze if desired.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Eating: Little Tommy Tucker


Little Tommy Tucker, is a small busy cafe off the main street in Bentleigh. It’s clean simple interior of wood, ceramic tiles, dotted with green plants, creates an inviting haven from which you can recuperate after a tough week. There is a wait but a few stools makes it tolerable.

Let’s just start straight out with a confession. I adore the institution that is brunch, but I own a quirk that I never been able to get rid of. I am distrustful of other people cooking my eggs for me. I’ve just had my egg-motions hurt time and time again by: hard yolks, over baked eggs, water clogged poached forms, to name a few. I would rather cook my own and to endure my own mistakes and messes, I don’t need to pay someone else for the privilege to suffer their ineptitude. But enough of this pontificating! Now you know why I tend to shy away from dishes containing eggs.

I chose the burger. This well constructed delicious handful ticks all the boxes for me. Brioche bun well crafted, and holds together under the onslaught of the juices and contents. The tomato relish is well balanced, not too acidic and a sweet balance to all the beef flavours exuding from the patty.

The beef patty is juicy and generously endowed. The patty is the main star of this dish, which I think should hold true for all burgers. Flavoured with onions, rosemary and thyme. All other elements help to support it, from the cheese, pickles, cos lettuce. Wedges are baked.

I was told the zucchini slice was creamy, going well with the salmon and crispy snow peas. The eggs here at this point in time were cooked perfectly with the yolk having the required slight oozy consistency.

In conclusion:
Excellent brunch place with pleasing decor and prompt service. The food will definitely please with good coffee and chai. Be aware of the wait, considering how good it is, the wait is worth it. If you’re wanting to try a new place, it’s a place I would think about going out of my way to try.

Little Tommy Tucker
432 Centre Road
(03) 9576 5174

Little Tommy Tucker on Urbanspoon