Medina, Downtown

 

One thing that we as Australians really take for granted is the whole concept of brunch. I didn’t realise this until I travelled to the States but sleeping in and then going out for a real fancy set of eggs doesn’t seem to be a huge thing here on this side of the world. Here in Vancouver in particular, it was surprising to find that most places only do brunch on the weekend, as if we don’t already have enough reasons to love the weekend already!

Lily and I had some nostalgic brunch cravings and looking online, Medina was highly ranked on numerous websites, and really, if we can’t trust our online friends then who can we trust right? So with that decided, Lily and I set out for some sweet egg action that hopefully would remind us a bit of home.

 

 

Well, the fanciness was definitely present! Lily ordered the Saumon Fume ($14). This dish included smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado and capsicum on sourdough with a side of lettuce. Medina are clearly impressed with the quality of their produce and that shines through in this dish, where the flavour of the ingredients themselves do all the talking.

It was a nice, tasty and rather clean dish – nothing too heavy or super flavourful. Although, for $14, it is quite small. At the end of the day, you only get one medium sized sourdough slice with some other ingredients and one fried egg. So if you’re looking to get full or something more substantial, this may not be the right dish for you.

 

 

So on the flip-side of “letting the ingredients do all the talking” comes the Les Boulettes ($17), lamb meatballs, two poached eggs, roasted capsicum served in an olive and tomato stew with grilled focaccia. Both the stew and the meatballs brought a ton of flavour to this dish, they were heavily seasoned in an array of different spices.

The meatballs were also really soft and springy – I couldn’t stop myself from making tiny open sandwiches with the bread. This lead to a self inflicted bread shortage, as you only get one small piece of focaccia, and everything from the meat to the stew to the yolk seemed to scream “put me on bread!” This of course lead to the whole bread conundrum, where I never know if I should ask for more bread or not. Like, is it free? It would be a nightmare if I requested more bread and then I found a charge for like, $2 or something on the bill. I mean come on, bread is pretty great, but I want half a loaf or something for $2. This is weirdly becoming a bit of a theme for me if you read the last post on the Templeton, so I probably should just suck it up and ask someone one day. I’ll let you all know the result when it happens!

We also got a couple of non-alcoholic drinks and some waffles, which we didn’t really take pictures of. We were seated at the bar, so there wasn’t a lot of space and didn’t want to annoy the bartender too much with all our picture taking!

We opted for the waffles ($3.35 each) with milk chocolate lavender, passionfruit syrup and ice cream ($1 for most toppings, $1.5 for maple syrup or yoghurt and $2 for ice cream). The waffles were nice and crispy with a hint of sweetness. This was paired with our choice of toppings, both the lavender white chocolate and passionfruit syrup complemented the waffle nicely. However,  the ice cream was errr… strange. It tasted and felt like ice cream that had been melted then refrozen, with a twang of that “left in the fridge unsealed” taste to it. We’re thinking this might have been due to the fact that the ice cream appeared to be pre-prepared rather than scooped on order, so something might’ve happened there.

We also got two house sodas, the Jamaiquita Lemonade ($5) and the Dickies Ginger Beer ($6). The lemonade was flavoured with hibiscus flower, eucalyptus, fresh lemon juice and grapefruit bitters while the ginger beer was served with fresh lime and mint. Of the two, the lemonade was pretty average – it definitely sounded a lot better than it tasted. It kinda just tasted like a mush of spiced flavours. On the other hand, the ginger beer was quite nice. Medina is also licensed bar, so if you’re into that sort of stuff, yay, alcohol for brunch!

 

Medina is definitely the quintessential brunch place. The decor is what could only be described as ‘modern hipster’ and the presentation of the food is to match. But like all great places that become too well known, Medina is extremely busy, with long lines, and waits during peak lunch hour and over the weekends. The vibe inside the cafe is also kinda crushed by the masses of people – it’s quite a large space that seats a lot so it can get pretty noisy. If you like brunch places like the Grounds of Alexandria (for my Sydney folks), this is the place for you.

Hopefully now that we are getting to know Vancouver, we’ll start to find of the city’s hidden brunch gems!

Medina

Address: 780 Richards Street, Vancouver Downtown

Cafe Medina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Joe’s Bar, Kingston

I think we’ve come full circle now, there was a time long ago when most restaurants you’d see around were named after someone in the attempt to make them seem more friendly, more relatable. Places like Lulu’s Cafe, China Joe’s, Uncle Jeff’s Vietnamese, any Thai restaurant (unless they went with the ‘thai’ pun option which was also super popular). Then after that came the modern era of places using words no one really understands, but if you go back in time or speak another language, it is actually a word that they use often for clean living or something. Places like Autolyse, Temporada, Mocan & Green Grout. Now I don’t have a particular preference when it comes to the names of restaurants, but I will admit I do have a slight nostalgic twinge at the thought of those old favourites and it is with great pleasure that I get to talk about a place named Joe’s Bar, presumably named after a man named Joe. Or woman named Joanne. You know, sometimes they shorten it like that.

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Joe’s Bar is the newly opened Italian inspired eatery and bar located on the ground level at the East Hotel in Kingston and complements Ox Eatery as another reason to venture out to the East Hotel whenever you can. I’m not usually one to jump out of my seat to try and attend newly opened places since I hate waiting in lines, but whilst I was browsing Instagram, I kept seeing pictures of cool little cheese plates and drinks coming out of Joe’s but they weren’t just traditional Italian goodies and drinks, each and every one of them had a cool and modern twist. And flowers, heaps of flowers, when I saw that, my hipster instincts kicked in and I knew I had to check it out.

Stepping into Joe’s Bar, the first thing that hit me was how quirky and cool the decor was, but second to that was the fact that it actually wasn’t super busy at all! I was kind of expecting a huge rush simply because of how Canberra seems to get whenever a new place opens up, which, I should add, is really nice to see as someone who is invested in the growth of Canberra’s food scene.

The decor is probably best described as a Frankenstein of hipster and rustic and it’s something that I really enjoyed. I know I say hipster a lot but it’s 2015, there’s just a lot of hipster things around these days. There’s a lovely wooden, vintage feel to the place, as well as a ton of ornaments and lights that seem thrown together in a way that doesn’t really work, but at the same time totally does. Sometimes I feel like my true calling is not in the realm of ‘describing things I don’t understand’. This is one of those times.

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Here you can see a few of the cool little things that make up Joe’s Bar’s character. Personalised coasters, cool little rocky candle holders and lemon slices in your tap water! Fancy! In addition, you get these cool little number cubes when you order that signifies what table you are. It’s these sorts of things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things but at the same time, I find really cool and is what sets a place apart from others. Also, stacking these little number boxes would be hell and I appreciate that kind of effort.

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First up, we got some Complimentary popcorn with rosemary, pecorino and olive oil. This was a welcome surprise; soon after we ordered we were presented with a complimentary serve of Joe’s special popcorn, and the smell itself was enough to get us drooling. Strong wafts of cheese oozed out of this dish and we were pretty hungry anyway so we started diving in straight away.

I am not a huge popcorn fan, lets get that out of the way first. When I go to the cinema, I generally will opt for chips, though I am acutely aware of how awkward it is to eat crunchy chips in a cinema, so might turn to gummy bears if I’m watching something particularly dramatic, but the point is, I’m not a huge popcorn guy. With that said, this popcorn was freaking delicious. Really cheesy, oily and just rich and decadent. There were just loose chunks of cheese everywhere, and depending on what ended up in your hands, you’d end up with a really rich cheesy mouthful, or a more relaxed one. Later the waitress came over and noticed we demolished our first bowl and offered us another one, which we gladly accepted. We kind of turned into popcorn people for one night.

A couple of days later, I actually tried making this at home myself, since it was absolutely amazing and I thought the ingredients were fairly basic, it should be quite easy right? Well I was wrong, my one turned out about a quarter as nice. The pecorino wasn’t as rich, the rosemary wasn’t nearly as edible, and overall it just wasn’t tasty at all. I’ll figure it out one day I’m sure. (Please help me I have no idea what I did wrong with it).

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Our first ‘main’ of sorts was the Polpettine di carne ($22) pasture-fed Cape Grim beef meat balls in vine ripened tomato sauce with crusty bread. So funny story with this dish, (it’s not that funny) I ended up picking it purely because of something I saw on TV recently. So on the show ‘No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain, there’s an episode where he goes to Italy and does, well food stuff. Anyway, at one point he goes to his camera man’s mother’s house and she cooks up this massive pot of Ragu and for 10 minutes it’s them just going on and on about the virtues of using bread to soak up sauce and how amazing it is, and the camera is just zooming in on them contorting bread into these shapes, soaking up sauce and shovelling it into their mouth.

Needless to say, I had to do it, and that is why when I saw this on the menu, I jumped at it.

The dish itself was pretty much what I was expecting. The meatballs themselves were really nice, good quality meat and slightly pink in the middle. I’m not sure if this is how Italians do it, but it wasn’t really heavily flavoured at all, and I found myself cutting open the meatballs, and then dipping the meat back into the sauce to coat it again. Luckily, I loved the sauce, which was a really rich, sweet and had chunks of tomato throughout it. This was quite nice, I prefer to have meatballs with a little bit more going on (my sister makes these amazing meatballs with rice in them which I absolutely love, in hindsight I should probably just ask her for the recipe instead of reminiscing about them) but I knew heading into this version at Joe’s that authentic Italian meatballs’ let the quality of the ingredients shine, and that’s exactly what happened here at Joe’s Bar.

This dish definitely satisfied my desire for dipping bread into sauce, and the lovely staff at Joe’s seemed to know it, and provided me with an extra serve of bread on the side. Really good, and would recommend if you’re at all interested in authenticity.

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Next up was the Lasagne al sugo di maiale brasato ($22) slow braised chianti pork ribs deboned and sandwich between handmade pasta sheets topped with grated pecorino and fresh nutmeg. This was probably my favourite dish of the whole night, and that was surprising because I wasn’t expecting much from it at all. The slow braised pork rib was the highlight here, it was shredded up and just gave the whole dish this amazing texture and ensured that what you were eating hadn’t been processed in the slightest.

The flavour of the pork permeated throughout the whole dish and was easily the star attraction here. It was smokey, mild, and extremely tender. The actual sheets of pasta were fantastic as well, really well made and with a slight char on them that gave a wonderful crunchy texture to the rest of the dish. Most lasagne’s that I have, (of the Sara-Lee variety) are heavy on the sauce, and that’s what you taste the most of, but that definitely wasn’t the way Joe’s Bar had opted to do their lasagne. The sauce was muted and took quite a back seat to the strong flavours of the pork. I appreciated this move, although that could’ve been because I was also eating the rich sauce of the meatballs at the time. In any case, I really loved this lasagne and would recommend it to anyone. Except a vegetarian I suppose.

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Next up, we ordered the cheese plate, or Di formaggi ($18) imported testun al barolo (grape infused pecorino), whipped goats cheese, taleggio lombardo, gorgonzola dolce, truffle honey, dried baby figs, candied pistachio and crostini. I’m not sure how much detail I’m expected to go into with a cheese plate, but let me start by saying this was just a beautifully presented plate. Not sure how much anyone cares about this sort of thing, but look at it!

The cheeses were all amazing but the highlights for me was the grape infused pecorino, the gorgonzola and the truffle honey. The grape pecorino was just a really cool cheese, and something I’ve never had the pleasure of trying before. It was a standard strong flavoured pecorino, but it also had this sweetness throughout it. The gorgonzola was a really mild blue cheese, and whilst I generally love blue cheeses, I do tend to get tired of how rich they are over time. This didn’t happen with the gorgonzola cheese at Joe’s, it was mild and delicious, and I managed to get all the way through it and even wanted more! The truffle honey on the other hand was exceptionally flavourful and rich. The flavour of truffle was incredibly strong in the honey, it almost felt like truffle oil in goo form. There’s a danger that it’s actually too rich for some, but as a huge truffle nerd, I loved it.

My favourite part of this cheese plate was the fact that you didn’t just get the typical cheddar, brie and blue combination. Most of the cheeses on this plate were really different, and I appreciated that change of pace.

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Our second cocktail of the night was Joe’s mandarin Negroni ($14) mandarin infused Campari, Cinzano rosso vermouth and fresh mandarin juice. This was actually quite the shock for us! When we read the description with all its mandarins, we were kind of expecting something light and sweet (of course we had no idea what a Negroni was) so when this popped out, it was shocking to say the least. If you’re a fan of hard Negroni’s or hard liquor at all for that matter, then this is actually really quite nice. You could taste the mandarin elements through it, and unfortunately we did end up stealing some of the lime’s from the dark & stormy to kind of weaken this drink somewhat. We did enjoy it, it just needed a little bit of a tweaking. If you’re someone that can handle their alcohol, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. Probably.

I kind of wish I got a recommendation from the staff at Joe’s Bar, the drinks menu was absolutely massive with plenty of local and imported wines as well as classic cocktails and a decent list of ‘Joe’s cocktails’, which included many classic cocktail but all with a modern twist to them and some flowers, plenty of flowers. I’m sure they could have recommended me something sweet and fruity!

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For drinks, we ordered a Joe’s dark & stormy ($16) Hayman’s Sloe gin, Cinzano extra dry vermouth, orange bitters and fresh lemon. Dark and stormy is actually my go-to cocktail whenever I see it on a menu because I love ginger beer. The dark and stormy here at Joe’s was really nice, full of lemons and limes and not too harsh on the alcohol. I’m not really a hardcore alcohol drinker so I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m talking about, but I did enjoy this.

Our time at Joe’s Bar was honestly fantastic. The service was really attentive, the food delicious, and the drinks tasty! The decor of the place is quirky and inviting, and it’s a place that adds wonderfully to the already delicious Italian shoe print in Canberra.

Joe’s Bar 

East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston

Website: joesateast.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/joesateast
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Pialligo Estate Farmhouse, Pialligo

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Last week, I finally managed to check out Pialligo Estate Farmhouse. I’ve been super keen to try it out since the Farmhouse first opened up about a month or so ago but a whole bunch of things just got in the way. Lame excuse, I know. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the very awesome Liz from Good Things, I’d probably still be twiddling my thumbs at home! Outside of her awesome blog, Liz also manages the Canberra food blogger’s Facebook group, which includes recipes and restaurant bloggers from across Canberra. Since joining the group almost a year ago, we’ve been involved in some great events and conversations, we’ve also learnt a lot about our fellow bloggers in Canberra and Liz, being as lovely as she is, decided to set up a dinner for us to all meet each other.

The event was hosted at the Piallgio Estate Farmhouse where the crew treated us to an awesome and delicious night of food and wines. I didn’t know a great deal about Pialligo Estate prior to visiting, except that they make the best artisan bacon in Australia (don’t take my word for it, they have an award for that!) as well as other amazing smoked goodies like salmon, sausages, and cured meats which we’ve sampled many times at markets like The Forage.

Outside of that, I only really knew that Pialligo Estate would’ve been somewhere down the road from the Spit Shack. I mean, Pialligo only really has one road right? Well for once my guessing was right and after some aimless driving in the dark, we came upon the Farmhouse, a lovely little (it was actually quite large) kind of old school house where I imagine people would be sipping on French wine or hard liquors in front of a fireplace, chatting about refined things like politics, and worldly events. It was an awesome looking venue and I imagine it would be great for weddings and events but me being the fatty I am, just dashed inside and readied myself for the food. Hence, no pictures of the exterior, but I’ve got plenty of food pictures in store!

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To start our food adventure (with twelve different treats and dishes, five matched wines and five solid hours of chatting, dining and swerving wine flutes, I don’t know if I can just call this a dinner or food, so that’s why I settled on the term ‘adventure’) we were treated to some canapes. The first of which were the Potato with eggplant puree. These were pretty simple, with really only two elements, the crispy potato and the flavoursome eggplant puree on top, yet they were surprisingly delicious.

The potato was cut into a fine strand which was sprung together and then deep fried, turning it into a super crispy chip but in the shape of a ball. I had concerns about how heavy this would be since it was entirely deep fried, but the fact that it was just a sprung together fine strand of potato, it was actually surprisingly light and airy. To bring some flavour to the crispy potato goodness, the crew at Pialligo topped the crispy potato balls with a really strongly flavoured and smokey eggplant puree. As someone who loves all things potato, this was the perfect start.

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Our second canape for the night was the Quail croquette with chive aioli. So I really enjoyed the potato with eggplant puree but for me, these were the winners of the night in the canape championships at Pialligo. It was really close, and I stumbled a few times on this decision, but I stand by it. These were amazing, it was like biting into a ball of flavour, with the added bonus of a crispy shell.

These croquettes had a really fantastic super crispy bread crumb shell, followed by a thick layer (about 1cm or so) of shredded quail meat, finally there was a hollow centre which was filled with warm quail juice. As you bit in to the croquette, you got the crispiness of the bread crumb, followed by some super soft and flavoursome quail meat, finally you get a burst of deep and meat quail juice. The croquettes were a little bit messy. When I first bit into it, I didn’t realise there was a juice centre, it kind of end up all over my shirt but it was completely worth it. Every bite was just filled with liquid gold. This is one of the few times in my life where I can say I was doing something a bit refined, but still ended up eating a bird with bread crumbs all over it. Parmo lovers rejoice!

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Two dishes in and we’re still only at the amuse, here Pialligo Estate was serving up a Salmon bisque. This was surprisingly amazing. I mean, I’m a pescetarian so fish is kind of my thing and all but even I steer clear of soups made out of fish. It just goes so wrong so often and when it done poorly, it’s just outright bad. Hence, I was pretty sceptical when the crew at Pialligo explained what this was and getting a whiff of it didn’t help either; it was pretty fishy. But as I took a sip of it, those thoughts all flew out the window and I began to appreciate how good this thing really was.

The bisque had a lovely salmon flavour to it but it wasn’t overly overwhelming. It was thick, creamy and quite hearty. It kind of reminded me of a really delicious chowder but just made out of salmon instead of a mix of different seafoods. The best part about this bisque was the surprise at the bottom. As you begin to realise that you’re about to come to an end of your fantastic soup, the crew at Piallgio Estate throws in a curve ball, with diced up bits of fresh salmon at the bottom. It was a lovely contrast in flavour and texture, it took the soup to the next level and turn it from something you would find at any nice restaurant to something you’d expect from a really good fine dining restaurant.

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Finally, after all the lovely starters, we got into the real stuff. First up, the Seaweed cured bonito with green tomato, crispy chicken, radish and dashi. So a bit of a funny thing with our meal at Pialligo Estate. They seem to really like soups and sauces here. Quite a few of the dishes came out all lovely and clean, and then two of three seconds later, a member from Pialligo would come around and pour something else on it. Completely killing the picturesqueness of it but whatever, its the taste that counts the most right, not the photos, right? RIGHT?!

Taste wise, this dish was pretty awesome. It was probably one of my favourites but I’m biased, I love sashimi more than I should. The bonito was extremely fresh and mild in flavour, this was perfectly complemented with a lovely fresh and earthy seaweed flavour. There was also some chicken which came in the form of a wafer. It was, of course, extremely crispy and added all the required crunch and texture to the soft bonito.

Outside of the bonito and chicken, there were plenty of other flavours and textures that worked really well with the overall dish. There were a couple of sweet, firm and juicy green tomatoes, which played off the richer flavour of the dashi sauce really well. The dashi sauce was thickish and savoury with a slight hint of sweetness to it, a perfect little sauce to bring everything together.

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Oh, so this is pretty cool. Thanks to the lovely people at Pialligo, I got to experience my first degustation with matched wines. I’ve done a couple of degustations in the past but I’ve never been able to come to terms with forking out an extra $100 or so for matched wines, especially since my palate for wine is as uncultured as it gets. Like, I would only really enjoy the first wine, then the dessert wine. But here, since it was all a part of the event, I just figured why not, maybe I’ll even discover a new go to wine!

Our first dish, the seaweed cured bonito was matched with a Ravensworth ‘7 month’ White Blend 2014. The sommelier at Piallgio did come around and explain this but my memory is pretty bad so I can’t remember what he said but that’s okay. Thanks to Google, I think this is a mix of pinot gris, gewurztraminer and riesling but don’t quote me on that. Quote Google. The wine matched the cured bonito really well. It was fruity, light and really refreshing. It complemented the light and delicate flavour of the fish and even lifted it. Wow, I feel like the back of a wine label.

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So here is where it gets interesting. I’m a massive fan of variety, so normally when we go out to fine dining restaurants, we tend to opt for ala carte instead of the degustation. This way I up with six different plates that we share amongst ourselves and I end up sampling six different things instead of five or however many courses the degustation menu has, that’s my Asian bargain hunting side coming into play. In the rare situation where I do go for the degustation, I tend to just eat the standard menu and pick out the meat bits. Weird I know but I just don’t enjoy being one of those ‘dietary requirements’ people, and you know, there might be a bit of laziness too it as well.

Anyways, since this was an event, I decided to mention my non-meat eatingness. Hence, Ouk and I ended up with some pretty different dishes at times. This was one of those cases. My non meat version came with spanner crab instead of chorizo. Here is the non-meat version, Spanner crab with cipollini, nashi pear and young mustard. Although spanner crab and chorizo are weirdly different in flavour and texture. They both worked surprisingly well with the other elements of the dish.

Here, the spanner crab was shredded and mixed with a creamy sauce, which was then moulded together into a ball. The moist and creamy crab was coupled with some onion which were extremely sweet, juicy and had a lot of crispness to it, a bit like biting into an apple. Yes, I’m talking about the onion pieces. Even I was pretty sceptical, how can cut up chunks of onion have such depth of flavour and texture? I don’t know how the crew at Pialligo Estate did it but the onions were amazing and tasted nothing like raw onion, yet they weren’t sour either as if they were pickled. To add to the juicy and crispy texture of the onion, there were also slices of nashi pear which added a hint of fruity sweetness as well. Finally, there was some mustard in the form of a crumb which was sprinkled all over the plate. This added some kick, spice and rounded out the sweetness of everything else.

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Here is the meat version of the above, Pialligo Farm chorizo with cipollini onions, nashi pear and young mustard. Everything on this dish was the same as the non-meat spanner crab version except for the Pialligo Farm chorizo. Here, the chorizo was turned into a foam, and to be fair, no meal is complete in 2015 if you haven’t eaten something that has been turned into a foam. The foam was quite creamy and if I had to guess, it seemed like it was made from a mixture of cream and chorizo. With this, the traditionally strong flavours of chorizo were a bit muted, you didn’t quite get the spiciness or the really strong flavour you normally get, but the crew at Pialligo did manage to keep the smokiness.

Turning the chorizo from its usual tougher meaty form into a foam gave the dish the moisture much like the spanner crab did for the non-meat version. However, this version was a lot more earthy thanks to the heavier and smoky flavour of the chorizo compared to the more lighter spanner crab. The nashi pear, onions and mustard of course aded the same sweet, fruity and crispy flavours like they did in the spanner crab version. It was really interesting to see how much you could change the overall feel and flavour of a dish by changing a single ingredient. Although it seemed like the crew at Pialligo attempted to give us both a similar experience, these two plates were surprisingly different. My spanner crab version was a lot lighter and fresh. While this meat version was a lot heavily, hearty and more earthy. Very interesting.

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The spanner crab and chorizo with cipollini onions and nashi pear was matched with a Pialligo Estate Riesling 2009. There isn’t much I can say about this, based on my super limited wine knowledge. I guess it was a riesling, so it was light, fruitier and on the sweeter side (not that I agree with that, rieslings are not ‘sweet’, give me a muscat, or a port, or something like that!). I think for my spanner crab version, it complemented the lighter flavours of the crab really well. Whereas in the chorizo version it really helped to overcome and cut thought the richer, heavier and smokey flavours of the chorizo. Oh a side note, you can actually buy these! I managed to snag a whole bottle of the Pialligo Estate Riesling 2009 to take home as a part of my parting gift but more about that right at the bottom.

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Onwards to our next dish for the night, the Majura Valley egg with veal sweetbread, celeriac, brioche and pine mushroom. My non-meat version came without the veal sweetbread but everything else was the same. Okay, I think this whole veal sweetbread thing deserves a bit of a mention. Prior to dining here at Pialligo Estate, I had no idea what veal sweetbread was, I kind of just assumed it was veal and bread which was sweet. Which honestly sounds pretty awesome! Well, as the night progressed, we were told that sweet bread is in fact, not, sweet bread.

Sweetbread, is brains! (or possibly glands or pancreas, I’m not quite sure). Talk about a deceptive name. ‘Sweetbread’, so sweet and pleasant sounding then bam you find out you’re eating a baby cows head. Taste wise, the dish itself was actually pretty nice, as long as you don’t mind eating brains or can forget about it while you’re munching away on it.

Like with a couple of the other dishes, this dish comes out and then another waiter will come around and pour a soup over it. This dish was a mixture of creaminess coupled with crispiness. The creaminess came from a mixture of the lovely egg yolk as well as a mushroom and celeriac soup, while you get the crispness from the brioche. There was also some mushroom slices, which added some contrasting texture and softness to the dish.

On the meat version, where you get the sweetbread, this added some extra interesting textures and flavours. The sweetbread was soft and a bit sponge like, a bit like an lobster ball that you get at Chinese hot pot places. It was definitely different. I did find the soup a slight tad salty but I found it pretty easy to manage the saltiness, I just avoided scooping up too much of the soup.

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This flavoursome and creamy dish was matched with a Henriques and Henriques 10 Year Old Sercial Madeira. I actually really enjoyed this, enough to make me research and seek out this wine type. This wine is produced in Portugal, apparently in a place called Madeira Island. I always found it strange that overseas they name wines based on where they were produced. Whereas in Australia, we just name it after a grape type. I must say, I do prefer the Australian style. I have enough trouble figuring out what I’m drinking without trying to figure out and remember which regions produce which types of wines.

As for the flavour and taste of this Madeira, to me it tasted like a fortified wine (I think it actually is a fortified wine, it had a much much higher alcohol content than the rest of the wines we had) but unlike fortified wines, this one didn’t really have the candy like sweetness to it. It was amazing, you get all that lovely Christmas and fruit pudding like flavour but without all that sweetness. To be fair, I really love it with all that sweetness as well, but I can definitely appreciate it without it. This worked surprisingly well with the above dish, cutting through the richness of the egg and savouriness of the soup, thanks to its strong caramelised fruit flavours and the strong alcohol flavour as well.

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Onward to I guess, our mains for the night. For the non-meat version, I got an Ocean trout with Jerusalem artichokes, tarragon and hazelnut dressing. This was one of the dishes where the seafood version was drastically different to the meat version that Ouk received. Here, mine was creamy, full of nutty and earthy flavours. These flavours were coupled with a really soft and well cooked fish (which you be unable to see but its there hiding at the back to the left)

I see ocean trout on a lot of menu’s these days, and to be honest, it’s really hit and miss for me. I’ve had a lot of situations where the ocean trout comes out with bones in it, and there’s nothing I hate more than trying to eat around fish bones or choking on one and then spending the next two days trying to shallow balls of rice. In a pleasant surprise, this fish was absolutely perfect, no bones to speak off, and perfectly flakey that you could break it apart with just a fork. I really loved this fish, and I’ve noticed that whenever I get the fish option at a fine dining establishment, I’m never disappointed. In hindsight, I probably do need to eat fish more, and I can’t keep going to fine dining restaurants, so, I guess I’m going to have to find normal places to have fish at.

The fish was coupled with some soft and flavoursome carrots, finally there was some crispy and flavoured kale which was sprinkled over the whole plate. The addition of the kale really help to bring a completely different texture and little bit of lightness as well to the dish. This was a great addition, as the rest of the dish particularly the fish was much heavier and really quite nutty in flavour so the kale brought some balance there. This dish was really nice.

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For the meat version of the mains, we were served a Muscovy duck with Musquee de Provence pumpkin, red onion chestnut and liquorice. On an interesting note, there were a couple of people at our table who don’t eat seafood and instead of getting this duck, there was something entirely different written on their menu (I’ve forgotten what though). However, in the end, the waiters came and noticed that duck fit their no seafood desires and everyone ended up with duck, so joy for all!

This duck dish was my (Ouk’s) favourite dish of the night, I tend not to like duck very much, too many bones in my opinion for the amount of meat you get. However, the one place where I reckon duck makes sense is on a fine dining menu with its smallish portions. This is where the lovely flavours of duck can shine through without the annoyance of dealing with bones constantly. This dish was really delicious, the duck itself was amazing, soft and pink with a layer of fat over the edge, really decadent. I actually had no idea there was pumpkin on this dish until I read the menu to write this up. It was a bit of a surprise to me because I actually thought it was carrot! Seeing as I mistook it for carrot, you might be able to tell it was quite sweet and extremely tender. Everything about this dish was all about how smooth, moist and tender everything was, which is something both the meat and seafood options had in common. Really delicious.

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This course was matched with a Rippon Gamay Noir 2013. This was the only red for the night. So as you may know by now, my knowledge of wine is pretty bad. So, when it comes to reds, I have no idea what I’m talking about at all. All I can say is that I actually enjoyed this a bit. Normally, I steer clear of reds because they’re a bit too strong and overwhelming for me. But here, this Gamay Noir was actually really enjoyable and light. It had a pretty strong and flavoursome start. However, it ended really light and crisp. As per usual, the wine worked really well to cut through the heavy and strong creamy nuttiness of the fish. Our duck dish was also matched with this wine as well. However, at this point Ouk had had quite a bit to drink already and we still had to drive home. So, he requested a mocktail which I forgot to take a picture of. I think it had grapefruit in it.

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Finally, our dessert for the night, a Valrhona Jivara chocolate with buckwheat, caramelised banana and malted milk. This was surprisingly nice. I’m normally not a massive fan of chocolate when it comes to dessert. Its normally too sweet, rich and just plain overwhelming. So when I originally saw the menu at the beginning of the night, I wasn’t really keen on the dessert, it just looked like a potential ball of sugar on a plate. Well, when I finally had a taste of the dessert, it was actually really good. The chocolate was mainly in the form of a “soil” that tasted and felt like crumbed up chocolate biscuits. It wasn’t as rich as it could’ve been, so that was a massive plus. The little chocolate circle at the top there was extremely rich, but I found the buckwheat ice cream and frozen malted milk really seemed to help balance it out and in the end it worked relatively well.

There were lots of different elements on the plate, not to mention the many different ways that they used Valrhona Juvara chocolate. There was some crispy, light and airy honeycomb, then there was the caramelised banana, which made me feel like I wasn’t just doing something plain bad for myself, at least I was getting a serving of fruit (as long as 1/5th of a banana counts). On top of that, there was a creamy and strong chocolate mousse. Next to that, you have the buckwheat milk cream which was really nice and creamy. It was really different in flavour and texture to everything else on the plate. Then you had a ring of chocolate which was filled with a really rich chocolate fudge type goo. Finally, to finish it all off there was this super interesting frozen malted milk. It wasn’t quite like ice cream but at the same time, it wasn’t icy like a sorbet. Lots of different flavours and textures all on one plate but surprising the elements worked really well together.

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To end the night, there were some House made sweets including strawberry marshmallow, chocolate truffle and salted caramel. These were pretty awesome. All three sweets were vastly different, yet each one was made extremely well.

The strawberry marshmallow was really soft but without any gelatine aftertaste to it. I’ve experimented cooking with gelatine a couple of times and every time I make marshmallow, I find that its either really wet and soggy or theres just that horrible and gross gelatine aftertaste. These ones at Pialligo Estate had a lovely and strong strawberry flavour to it, they weren’t overly sweet like the marshmallow you get from the stores either, which was a plus.

The chocolate truffle was really flavoursome, rich and had a really strong cocao flavour to it, there was also a heavy dusting of cocoa powder on each of the chocolate truffles which enhanced the flavour of the chocolate even further. I guess it was more of a dark chocolate truffle. Texture wise, as you bite into it, it was quite soft and creamy, it practically melted in your mouth.

Finally, there was the salted caramel toffee. This was probably my favourite. Normally with most homemade caramels, I tend to leave it till the end because I always have a hell of a time trying to pick it out of my teeth at the end. This wasn’t like that at all! It wasn’t quite like your traditional salted caramel where the salt is mixed in and throughout the caramel. Here, instead there were specks of sea salt here and there throughout the caramel. I found that this worked really well. You’ll get the strong, creamy and caramelised flavour of the toffee. Then here and there, you’ll get a hit of saltiness, which really helped to balance out the sweetness and stop the caramel from becoming overwhelming.

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To end the night, we were all presented with a basket of goodies full of Pialligo Estate goodies to take home. I really loved it, it gave us a fantastic little peek into the fantastic goodies that Piallgio Estate offers, from their smoked goods like the bacon, salmon and salt to their wines, cold pressed oil and finally the goodies from the Farmhouse kitchen, with the box of macarons, chocolates and salted caramel toffee.

I’ve sampled quite a few of the goodies in this basket and every one of them blew me away, especially the smoked salmon. Being a non-meat but seafood eater, I’ve had a lot of smoked salmon, I also happen to like it quite a bit. The smoked salmon from Piallgio Estate was probably one of the best smoked salmons I’ve ever had, thought I normally just get smoked salmon from Woolies and what not, so don’t 100% take my word on that. The salmon was smokey, soft and pretty much melted in your mouth yet it didn’t have that fishy aftertaste that smoked salmon tends to have. It was amazing.

So there you have it, our very awesome dinner at Pialligo Estate Farmhouse. Everything was just so absolutely tasty and the staff were just lovely, knowledgeable and pleasant all round. Since this was a catered event, I imagine it may be a little different to a standard dinner or lunch here. I absolutely cannot wait to come back to try Pialligo Estate Farmhouse’s ala carte and degustation menu. I’ve had a browse of it and I’ve already got a couple of things in mind.

This food adventure was made possible thanks to Liz from Good Things. As it was an event, the prices that we paid do not reflect the standard prices at Piallgio Estate Farmhouse. This is an independent post. Hence, all views and opinions are our own. 

Pialligo Estate Farmhouse 

18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo

Website: thepialligoestate.com.au/estate

Facebook: facebook.com/PialligoEstate

Twitter: @pialligoestate

Instagram: @pialligoestate

Opening hours: 

Thursday to Sunday: 12:00pm to 2:30pm

Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00pm to 9:00pm

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