Saturday, July 31, 2010

Voodoo Courtyard Cafe

Voodoo is an unassuming cafe towards the lower third of Ruckers Hill but just higher than Separation Street. With plenty of places vying for the "eclectic" label (damn their eyes!), Voodoo manages to be eclectic but comfortable, chaotic to look at and yet still relaxed. Others try hard but Voodoo just does its thing, and its thing is a vaguely Chinese look with lots of rich reds and gold framed mirrors and a comprehensive collection of what at Eat Our Way like to call "crap" - knick-knacks, curios, carvings and tchotchkes.

The Voodooistas are as charming as charming gets, well before charming gets weird.

Vegie breakfast

The "Grazer" vegetarian breakfast was couple of perfectly poached eggs on a disappointingly fluffy half-bun but the spinach and mushrooms were as good as you'd like them. The grilled tomato had an unexpected spicy sheen which caught me unawares - lovely by all means but far hotter than its modest look suggested. Will's chicken sandwich was pretty good too (as far as sandwiches go) - the chicken had just been grilled and the bread was better than my fluffy stuff. Full marks for the coffee!

Voodoo also has a tiny, narrow but very green courtyard out the back where we've enjoyed a lazy breakfast before. All in all a keeper.


Thursday, July 29, 2010


Maize is in the Thornbury Village section of High Street and is pretty typical of the small cafe/breakfast spots everywhere between Westgarth and Preston. Their menu is long and their coffee is good and they (like so many of their peers along High Street) pride themselves on using words like "organic" and "spelt" and "wholegrain". All good and all worthy.

Some bits of this morning's breakfast were pretty good and worthy too. The cheesy scrambled eggs in particular were creamy, cheesy and light, although there was far too much for me. But this dish was, allegedly, huevos rancheros. Described as scrambled eggs with sausage and a tomato salsa, I'd expected it to come with a tortilla, not a couple of slices of damp wholegrain bread. The sausage was sliced kranksy (or sim), well grilled and nice enough. The tomato salsa, alas, turned out to be diced tomato with a few chives. Not in the slightest bit Mexican and not even in the most subtle way was it spiced. All in all this was scrambled eggs, sausage and diced tomato and I was disappointed.

Huevos Rancheros? Nope
There's lots of competition for breakfast along here, and Maize didn't stand out as anything special. And I still want huevos rancheros...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cafe Troy

Cafe Troy makes kebabs. Good kebabs. Kebabs on Turkish bread rather than wrapped in flat bread. Lots of lamb. Just enough garlic sauce that isn't overpowering. A little bit of chili if you want. Great kebabs. Did I say that already? The pides are ok too, but the doner kebab is fantastic. Great kebabs. I could go on...

Great kebab... Did I say that already?

Cafe Troy is only on High Street in a metaphorical and otherwise untrue sense. In the real world it's on the corner of Nicholson and Pigdon Streets in North Carlton.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cheese Club Eight - Night of the Living Curds

The gear

When a barman knows your name it's probably time to reflect on your life so far and wonder if the next few years should be quite as well lubricated as the last few (which, when you think about it, have gone past in a bit of a blur). I was having similar thoughts earlier in the week when Parma at the cheese shop not only recognised me but called me by name. Yes, I realise that I know her name as well, but that doesn't really make it any better.

Two of the Cheese Club 7

Nevertheless, Cheese Club carries on and, like my cholesterol levels, is ever growing. This month the Cheese Club crew grew to seven, so there was no shortage of opinions and definitely no shortage of wine. Team Cheese was textile seahorse, Tom, Francesca, Dandy, Scott, Eat our Way stalwart Elisabeth and myself. The challenge was facing six Italian cheeses with no assistance except for some wine, bread, cornichons and a few biscuits.

Revolutionary biscuits of Italy,
Rise up out of your box,
You have nothing to lose but your wafers
Yum, yum, yum.

(Alexei Sayle)

Two more of the Cheese Club 7

So without further ado, and definitely without any further revolutionary poetry, we begin...

Occell- Tuma dia Paja - like the Easter Show, but flatter

Occelli Tuma dia Paja - This is a humorously flat, striped white-moulder that looks like a Camembert that was sat on by a pig wearing corduroy. The texture was soft like a perfectly ripened Brie but not as dense, while the flavour was mild and rural. Scott described this as "smelling like the Easter Show" - a mixture of hay and farm animals, not surprising given these are ripened on straw. It's made from milk from cows, goats, sheep, ducks, sparrows and... sorry, got carried away there... No duck or sparrow milk, but it does have cow and goat, and the sheep milk was clearly evident. A very good cheese to eat before getting down to the real business of eating cheese.

Ribiola de Grotto - the 1960 station wagon of packaging

Ribiola di Grotto - The most surprisingly packaged cheese I've seen yet. Wrapped like a bar of soap and then a layer of thin wood laminate on top and bottom, it looks like the lactic equivalent of an 1960's woody station wagon. A washed rind, cow's milk, this is one of the best washed -rinders I've tasted in a while. The texture was perfectly smooth with the slight crunch of salt(?) crystals while the flavour was salty and creamy but balanced with the bright orange pungency. Described as "excellent drinking cheese", as each salty bite needed a mouthful of wine.

Occelli crutin tartufo

Occelli crutin tartufo - Regular readers might get the impression we've gone a little truffle-mad here at Eat our Way Up High Street and honestly, it's hard to argue otherwise. This is a cylinder of truffle infused, semi-hard cheese made from cow and goats milk and it left us all reeling. Crumbly, and without the truffle it would be a nice enough - medium fat with a goat tang to finish with. With the truffle though... Phroaghhhhh.... Like a boardroom in a 1980's advertising agency, we passed the plate around from nose to nose, snorting deeply and talking rubbish, such was the intensity of the aroma. Somebody said, "Christmas in July!" Truffles really need fat to help spread the love, and truffle-in-cheese can be even better than the otherwise madcap truffle butter. Pecorino with truffles has been a favourite for a while, but the Occelli is its glorious, scented peer.


Sovrano - a hard cooked cheese from Lombardy made from cow and buffalo milk. A slice from a much larger (35kg) wheel, this is a lovely, pale coloured hard cheese with a bright, slightly sweet flavour. It has a slight crystalline crunch and a long, rich finish balanced with a little tartness (but not too much). This was a hearts-and-minds cheese - a lovely hard cheese for shaving that's not so intense that it can't be used with reckless abandon (and you know how much we love reckless abandon).

Pasti with crumblepaste. Weird.

Pasti - Another hard cooked cheese, this one quite a bit more intense than the Sovrano. It was a much darker, almost orange colour and had a flavour was deep and complex - rich and buttery but with esters that emphasise tropical fruit fragrances. Very intense and crumbly but with an odd textural finish. There were a few awkward moments as we looked at each other wondering, "am I the only one?" but it was consistent for all of us. The cheese 'clumped' and stuck in lumps to our back teeth. Nothing a cleansing raisin or bit of bread wouldn't fix, but disconcerting nonetheless. An intense success, but don't say I didn't warn you about that finish...


Erborinato - A cow's milk cheese attacked with all sorts of wonderful infection, being both a washed-rind and a blue-moulder. This was a cute, fist-sized cylinder with a cute, fist-sized punch. Soft, but the smooth, creamy soft of a washed rind cheese rather than a buttery blue. I can imagine the battle between the blue mould and the orange mould could leave large tracts of land uninhabitable with fall-out, but this cheese brings them together in a controlled way, balancing the competing forces into something pretty special. The blue is intense but it's a broad intensity, like a punch in the head, rather than a scalpel-scythe to the palate.

Another great moment in Cheese Club history.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cedar Bakery


Cedar Bakery makes Lebanese 'pizzas' and pastries and is also the largest Lebanese supermarket within a lazy bike ride from home. We know them fairly well - weekend lunches are often a few of their joyous pizzas, and if you need dried apricot paste in a sheet this is the place to go in Thornbury/Preston. They also have a huge range of Mediteranian stuff - olives, nuts, cabbage rolls, oils etc and also do roast lamb for events.

Hard to get excited by a photo of a supermarket, I know...

On this day we ordered four pizzas (they're quite small) - two lamb, one herb and sesame and a salami. The lamb is literally just a thin spread of very finely minced lamb on soft, thin bread spiced with lemon juice and chili; the herb was almost overpowering in a resinous way; and the salami was lovely, although a bit too much haloumi (or W calls it, "squeeky cheese") for my liking. The lamb pizza is the standout - just perfect.

A nice place to pick up a cheap and easy Saturday lunch, and to wonder whether next time we might get some take-away cabbage rolls. A modest highlight on High Street, but a highlight nonetheless.

Lamb (Lahem Bil Ajine); herb and sesame; and salami with squeeky cheese -
make sure you fold the lamb in half

Friday, July 9, 2010

C-Culture & Achillion Cakes

Continuing with our new-found Preston joy, C-Culture is a jaunty Chinese BBQ and seafood restaurant in the northern climes. Despite its stupid name, we spent a lovely Friday night there and we ate far, far too much protein, although that says as much about the way I like to spend Friday night than it does about anything else.


C-Culture (I cringe as I type that name) is large by High Street standards and was boisterous with families, couples and groups of all shapes and sizes, like a low-rent Benetton commercial peopled with people instead of models. Although not pretty to look at, the decor is not offensive and the noise levels are rambunctious rather than painful. Best of all, hanging in the window are a picture-show of red-ruby ducks, golden chickens and bits of pig so beautiful I almost cried.

Having seen such beauty it was impossible to resist the lure of the hangings, and so we ate very, very high on the food chain.

We started with prawn spring rolls and a quarter of a soy-sauce chicken from the window. The spring rolls were little more than simple, roughly chopped prawns in a cigar wrapper with almost nothing but the flavour of the prawns, while the chicken was moist and beautiful.

We ordered six main courses (for seven, including children), which was probably one too many. Being enamored with the window-hangings, we tried the crispy-skin roast pork belly which was absolutely fucking perfect, although as regular readers will know (sorry about the swearing Mum!) my views on pork are generous and can't be trusted, especially if you happen to be Muslim or Jewish.

The prawn omelet was pretty good and the mixed vegetables with Chinese mushrooms and tofu was, well, as you'd expect it. I'm usually a fan of Ye Olde Tofu And Veg, but we had so much animal protein that tofu seemed a bit, well, "disappointing", he said, in a faintly patronising way. The duck was not from the window, but was cooked much the same as our local take-away "Duck and Chinese mushrooms", which is to say it was nice, but I'm prepared to let the word "nice" just hang there...

Everything except the girl (and the barramundi)

Being billed as a seafood restaurant, we had a whole steamed barramundi with ginger and green onions and pippies in XO and chili sauce. The barramundi was steamed perfectly although with the slightly odd, soapy flavour that barra sometimes has. The pippies were, on the whole, wonderful, a few were still sandy (which is always a bit of a shock) and the sauce was a bit too thick, but not so bad that I didn't eat almost all of them myself.

Despite sounding like a nasty pathology procedure, C-Culture is a better-than-average Melbourne suburban Chinese restaurant. It does its own roast pork and chickens, which in my mind automatically elevates them, and is a perfect place for a casual family dinner.

This is how I like to spend a Friday night - with extended family, in a relaxed yet bustling room that offers food that everyone loves and makes all feel welcome. C-Culture is not a place to dress up for (although the local B-Boys had clearly made an effort), and it's not a place to invite your gastrosexual friends, but is a place to relax and wonder about the many and glorious ways of the pig.

I've previously reminisced about our family tradition of following great Chinese food with European cakes, and tonight, having parked the car outside a Greek bakery, we walked in those sweetened footsteps.

Greek cakes!!!

Many people make the mistake of assuming that Greek desserts like Baklava and Galaktoboureko are made by pouring an almost infinite quantity of syrup over pastries of various sorts, but this is to overlook the exquisite balance and pitch-perfect judgment required.

There is a fine line between insufficient syrup and too much, and Greek pastry chefs must walk this path, wide as a hair's breadth, every working day. Like the famed fugu chefs of Japan, they are well-trained because they, too, skirt the shores of death. Too little syrup and the diner will fail to encounter the famed glucose hallucinations; the "sugar-fairy" visions and the sucrose equivalent of the other side. Too much syrup, of course, and the diner instantly slips into a diabetic coma and death quickly follows.

Greek desserts - choices, choices....

On this night the masters at Achillion cakes judged them perfectly, and after the blissful visions and after the shadow of death was lifted, all that remained were aching teeth.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Lunchtime Walk through the Preston end of High Street

Today saw a short jaunt to High Street in Preston to drop off F's sewing machine at the sewing machine shop for its annual lube job and a new set of piston rings.

While there we collected menus for a number of enticing restaurants, predominately Chinese and Vietnamese and visited the most extraordinarily crappy $2 shop. We also dropped into the oddly-named "Bread Top". Bread Top is a franchise that specialises in asian-style buns - the sort that always look beautifully presented and taste, well, unexpected and usually sweet. Having seen Bread Top pop up around Melbourne's CBD, and often having wondered about the food, we did a test run.

Clockwise from top left - sausage inna bun, strawberry cream bun, bamboo charcoal bun, raisin brioche, custard tart and chicken puff

It was pretty much what I expected. Unnervingly sweet, they all look perfect and beautiful, although in a slightly unsettling way. Oh well, we live and learn. On the other hand, I got a good price on both a Jesus and a Ganesh.

Jesus and Ganesh; window buddies

Noodle Kingdom

"When beetles
fight these battles
in a bottle
with their paddles
and the bottle's
on a poodle
and the poodle's
eating noodles...

...they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle."

(from Fox in Sox by Dr Seuss)

It is our first foray to the North end of High Street, in Preston, and we do it without a noodle-eating poodle. Although regulars at the Preston Market, we haven't tried any of the increasing number of restaurants nearby in High Street, so Noodle Kingdom is the beginning of something new for us. Oh, the places we'll go....

Noodle Kingdom is a modern, bright and wonderfully chaotic room off a bright and wonderfully chaotic section of The Street Previously Named. Noodles are hand-made by a noodle hand-maker who sits in his noodle-booth near the noodle-window, and my word, they are wonderful (noodles).

Emmy and I ordered well-noodled noodle soups (with noodles) - mine was the Lanzhou beef soup, Em's a wanton wonton soup. W dumpled.

The beef soup was simple and fragrant - a wintry warm, rich and scented broth with sweet aniseed-like spices and firm, poodle-free noodles that were fun that was funny. It was adoringly adorned with slices of beef brisket that were melt-in-the mouth tender and would have been lapped up by any self-respecting lap poodle.

Em's wontons were wantonly wonderful - juicy pork flavoured with ginger; far better than fish-in-a-pot. Both dishes were served in enormous and staggering Horton-sized bowls. The dumplings, pot stickers, were less wonderful but still fine.

Like reading Dr Seuss to a five-year old, Noodle Kingdom is a simple but cheerfully boisterous experience. Getting your tongue around these hand-made poodle-free noodles is easier than reading Fox in Sox and just as rewarding.