Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Fairfield dog sculpture
FIDO, courtesy wispfox

Not in High Street perhaps, but a short ride away via traditional northern suburbs transport (Vespa or a fixie), Alfio's Cafe is in Station Street in Fairfield, just up from the glorious FIDO. Alfio's is a Fairfield stalwart and was one of the oldest of the current generation of cafes. It also hasn't changed much in years - it was much the same in 2005 and 2006 (and indeed, the blackboard behind me in 2006 has exactly the same cocktail list).

Alfio's is so much part of my mental landscape of Fairlfield that I wouldn't have bothered writing about it except that I've only just discovered they serve the best mega-breakfast in the northern suburbs. Not the best breakfast all up, but certainly the best mega-breakfast in the FEB-style.

Hail King George

Alfio's call their mega FEB breakfast, "The George". It contained a pile of wilted spinach; a couple of poached eggs (slightly over-done); two slices of pale toasted baguette; some sauteed mushrooms (good but not spectacular); two halves of grilled tomato (good but with extraneous cheese on one half); a pile of crisp bacon (excellent!); a Hungarian-style paprika and garlic partly-cured sausage (brilliant!); and a lamb kofta (not a lot of flavour but cooked perfectly). It also had, buried underneath, a superfluous, freezer-bag hash brown. When I can work up the energy I'll rail against these, but honestly, who cares enough?

Oh, and there were beans. Very good. Home made, not too light and not too stodgy either - Goldilocks beans.

All in all it was, well, huge. Pretty damn good for a late breakfast verging-on-lunch. Oh, and the coffee is, and always has been, fantastic. Go there, but expect to see some of your work colleagues striding past in their Saturday morning finest. Well, that's what I saw, anyway.

Stephen Colbert Scooby Snacks

Martha Stewart explains strangling turkeys to Stephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert mushes Devon/Berliner/Fritz/Baloney with tomato sauce and serves it on crackers.

Stephen Colbert sucks the lapel of a 69-year old former stockbroker and jailbird.

Watch it here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

China Red

Technology has come a long way since I was a small, innocent child. Tonnes of metal fly through the sky every day (mostly safely); gamma radiation from galactic bubbles abounds; and people cheerfully wear clothes made of magical man-made fibres. At the same time, the intertubes have revolutionized our lives and information swirls endlessly through pipes, blessing us with almost instantaneous satisfaction and answers through tubes. Water, however, still comes in bottles.

I only raise this because I have this great idea that's going to make me rich. I'm going to tell you, discretely, but you have to promise not to keep it to yourself.

You see, it occurred to me that if everyone uses water every day, then surely it would be great if we had instant access to it, just like we have instant access to information. Indeed, what we need is some sort of "water internet". This "waternet" would be, like the internet, a series of tubes, but in this case delivering water, instead of information, directly to our houses! It's a crazy, science-fiction idea (I know!), but perhaps one day it will be more than fantasy. Maybe in the future we'll be able to abandon bottled water for a "waternet", where water is delivered through "pipes". Maybe not in my lifetime perhaps, but hey, we can dream.

The future of dumplings is here already

Of course, not all technology is fantasy. While the "waternet" eludes us, the great dream of a dumpling internet (the legendary "dumplenet") has already arrived. Somewhere in the world, the Tim Berners-Lee of the dumpling world is resting on his laurels and these laurels can be found at China Red.

China Red is a small, tastefully discrete modern restaurant in a mall between Bourke St and Little Bourke, just off Melbourne's China Town and is truly a marvel of modern technology. While one day in the future we will surely be able to access the dumplenet from home, in 2010 we are limited to dumplenet cafes and China Red is at the forefront of this exciting phase of civilization.

Spring onion pancakes. Donuts, but with onions and crisp.

Using the amazing touchscreen dumplenet technology, Miranda, Helen and I (early adopters all) ordered our dumplings "on screen" and without recourse to human interaction!! This felt both staggeringly modern and never too far from being exciting. Screens were touched; virtual buttons were digitally manipulated and food arrived shortly after, albeit delivered by humans rather than the robots I hoped for. You can check what you ordered at any time, with delivered dishes signified with a digital steaming bowl icon, while food you've ordered but is not yet delivered shows as a rather sweet animated chef cooking up a storm.

We ordered spring onion pancakes which were exceedingly crisp and onionesque; green (snake?) beans with minced pork and chili; some chili oil dumplings; and some pot-stickers. The beans were wonderful and smoky, although the pieces of chili they were served with was staggeringly, blisteringly hot, while the chili oil dumplings were somewhere greater than good but less than spectacular. The pot-stickers (I know they had a proper name but I can't remember what it was) were also good, but no more, and came with a chewy and gelatinous wrapper.

Pan-fried dumplings (pot-stickers) and the blistering beans

All up the food was good city lunch time fare. Good dumplings, but not great, with a bit of digital fun watching the little man on the screen. Go, have lunch and pay very little, but most of all marvel at the first fledgling steps of what will become the great and ubiquitous dumplenet.