October 21, 2014

Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens and Cafe

We've started to have such beautiful, sunny days lately and I'm really looking forward to spending more and more time outside enjoying it.  There's so many great festivals coming up (especially the Paris to Provence and the Hispanic Latin ones in November) plus there's some beautiful gardens for picnics in Melbourne and beyond. One garden that I found out about recently and plan to revisit soon is the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens in Daylesford. I had no idea they existed until I started seeing images on Facebook recently and my family ended up visiting for my sister's birthday.
 What would Martha do - Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens
This is the tower that's in the gardens - there's stairs inside so you can climb all the way to the top. I'm a little terrified scared of heights so I didn't give it a go this time but my two nephews and their mum raced up to the top. 
What would Martha do - Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens
The gardens were so beautiful, there were lots of flowers starting to bloom and so many amazingly massive old trees. If you don't visit the cafe there then it'd be the perfect spot for a picnic.
What would Martha do - Wombat Hill House Cafe
We got a big table in the window of the cafe to eat at. I just loved that place - from the art on the walls like above to the gorgeous big blue bookshelves with a ladder and cool industrial type stools. The cafe is run by Alla Wolf-Tasker, the very same who owns the Lake House in Daylesford. It has much more of a casual vibe with seating outside in the sun. The cafe serves up simple seasonal food, sourced from the local area.
What would Martha do - Wombat Hill House Cafe
I tried the Moroccan Meatballs with couscous which was fantastic. It had yoghurt drizzled over the top and a sprinkling of dukkah that added a nice crunch. My skinny latte (not pictured) was really good too,
What would Martha do - Wombat Hill House Cafe
Of course, any birthday needs cake so we ended up picking this beautiful Hummingbird cake from the large amount of beautiful looking sweets on offer. Mum and I ended up sharing the one above, and it was amazing.

Wombat Hill House
Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens
Daylesford, Victoria
Wombat Hill House on Urbanspoon
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September 15, 2014

A Round up of Food

I often visit restaurants and cafes over the weekend, but usually don't get enough photos or try enough food to do what I feel like is a proper review. I thought every so often I'd do a post about these places I've visited to share my feelings about what I'd tried so far.

Hammer and Tong 412
I'm still a little undecided about how I feel about Hammer and Tong. The food that I had was amazing - I just had to try the soft shell crab burger. It was lovely and crunchy, with a slight bite from the sauce, but I thought it would be nice if it had come with a side of some sort - it's quite a small meal. I also tried their coffee, ordering a skim latte which I really enjoyed.
On the other hand though, I didn't think much of the service. The waiter who helped us with our table was lovely, but I felt that the other waiters we came into contact with didn't have much personality. We tried a little banter with them a couple of times but got no smile or no reaction really altogether. The whole cafe was a little cramped, with the five of us being squished onto a table for four. But...it's not enough to put me off completely - I still want to try their breakfast ramen and their french toast sounds really interesting too.

QV Hidden Garden
I accidentally stumbled onto the Hidden Garden at QV, and I'm so glad that I did. It's such a beautiful space. I was hanging out with a couple of friends and when I had to take something back to my car at QV I walked past it. I sent the above photo to my friends asking if they wanted a coffee, with an immediate YES! in response.
Now this is only a pop up garden so I'm not sure how much longer it'll be there but hopefully they bring it back again soon. Each day there's a different thing happening there, including eyebrow shaping, drink mixing classes and on each weekend (like when we were there) it's a cafe, run by Milky Joes that serves coffee, hot chocolate and different sweets. I ordered my usual skim latte and a escargot both which were served up in a cute basket.

August 29, 2014

On my Radar

I've been wanting to talk about some different things on the blog every so often, whether it's fashion, the TV shows, movies and books that I love or just things that I've found on the internet. I thought it might seem a little random at first so I thought I'd do a 'On my Radar' post, like this one, every so often.
4 year old reviews The French Laundry - not only is this adorable (the facial expressions of this little girl are hilarious!) but you can drool over pictures of the food that gets served at the French Laundry.
Orange Is the New Black: Season 1- I know I'm late to the game with this one but I've only just got the chance to start watching it. And? It's fantastic! Definitely worth watching!
Food Awards 2014 in the Melbourne Time Out Magazine - there's so many cafes and restaurants I want to try here. I'm glad that Smith and Daughters won the viewers choice award and one of my favourites, Rockwell and Sons, was a runner up for best casual eatery. I just want to eat my way through the entire list!
Daffodil Day - I know everyone seems to be talking about the ice challenge at the moment but I thought I'd remind everyone about Daffodil Day. This is a cause close to my heart and I think it's a great one to donate to. Lets try and get rid of cancer for good!
Ruth Reichl's blog posts about restaurants in Melbourne - especially after seeing her on Saturday. I stumbled upon this earlier today when I was trying to find information on her books and love that she took the time to write about the food she ate while she was in Melbourne, and to hear her thoughts on Cumulus and Attica. Worth a read!

August 25, 2014

Ruth Reichl at the Melbourne Writer's Festival + Lunch at Bowery to Williamsburg

I've only read one of Ruth Reichl's books, Garlic and Sapphires, but it's one of my favourites. Garlic and Sapphires is the account of Ruth's time as New York Time's food critic (dream job!). It was fascinating to read of how she would dress in disguise so she wouldn't be recognized and how she was treated in comparison to when restaurants knew who she was. And the way that she described the amazing meals that she ate....I could almost taste them myself!
Ruth has just released her first fiction book Delicious!, and is visiting Melbourne for the Melbourne Writer's Festival. She had 3 talks over this past weekend, the one I went to was a Q&A about her new book, Delicious! I've just started reading it and am loving it so far. The Q&A was held in the Deakin Building at Federation Square which is such a beautiful room, especially on a sunny day like we had.
Ruth also had an amazing sounding talk on about food writing over the weekend, but that one was just a little out of my price range. I'm just glad that I at least got to see her talk at all!
I must admit that listening to all the talk about food made me hungry so my friend, who I went to the talk with and I headed to Brewery to Williamsburg which was close by in Oliver Lane. We'd heard mention of their peanut butter hot chocolate and had to try it! I loved the cup it was served in, it was made to look like plastic cup that had been crumpled a little. I'm not usually one for hot chocolates, often I find them overly sweet but this one had the perfect level of sweetness. It wasn't overwhelming at all. Plus it comes with a Reese's Peanut Butter cup on the side. Yum!
I was originally planning on ordering the Reuben sandwich, but instead decided to go for one of the brunch dishes. The maple baked beans, bacon and poached eggs on rye toast was fantastic so I'm glad I swapped. The eggs were perfectly runny, with gorgeously orange yolks. The bacon had a sweetness to it and the beans (which I'm usually not a fan of) were warm and comforting. I definitely want to go back to try more of their dishes, especially the amazing American desserts - pecan pie, New York cheesecake...and the bagels! 
Bowery to Williamsburg
16 Oliver Lane
The view looking back down Flinders Street was so beautiful I couldn't resist taking this shot of Flinders St Station from afar. If you're interested in any of Ruth Reichl's books follow the links below to find out more. I'm really looking forward to reading another of her books, Tender at the Bone, next!


August 20, 2014

Avocado Pasta

Do you ever get to that point in winter where you just get cravings for fresh foods? I've been feeling that way for the past week or so, I think because I'm starting to get sick of all the wintery foods I've been eating. I was browsing through Pinterest for some inspiration when I found this recipe for avocado pasta. I can't get enough of avocados and this just sounded like a quick, healthy way to have pasta (also another favourite).
I loved the taste - the combination of the basil, lemon and avocado was great. I think the next time I make it though the addition of some chicken and mushrooms would round it out nicely.
Would you add anything else to this recipe? Or would you keep it simple?

Avocado Pasta
[Printable Recipe]
300g Pasta
2 ripe avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.
2. To make the pasta sauce, combine avocados, basil, garlic and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor, season with salt and pepper, to taste. With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until emulsified.
3. In a large bowl, combine pasta, avocado sauce and cherry tomatoes
4. Serve immediately

Recipe Source:
Damn Delicious

July 19, 2014

The Spotted Owl Cafe, Sunbury

A new cafe has opened up in the town I work in so of course I had to give it a try. While there's a few places I can go to eat during my lunch breaks there's no amazing cafes in the area. I was pleasantly surprised with The Spotted Owl. It's a very light, bright and modern cafe - more of the type you would find in Melbourne, with little potted plants in the entry way which I really liked.
I've been a couple of times since they've opened and have really enjoyed all of my meals. They do some very interesting but tasty combinations that work well.
I think the only thing I've been slightly disappointed with each time I've been has been the coffee. Each time I've ordered my usual skim latte and while it's...okay...there's just a strange taste to it that's not very pleasant. I do love the green plates that the coffees are served on though.
The first time I went I tried the smashed avocado and chickpea on toast and asked for a poached egg on the side. I love avocado so really loved this. The chickpea added that little bit of difference in texture to your usual smashed avocado dish. 
While I was there that first time I spotted people with a dish that looked like Eggs Benedict but couldn't find it on the menu. The second time around I realised that it was on the menu as The Breakfast Stack. This was a little bit of a twist on the usual Eggs Benedict though with the addition of melted cheese, avocado and tomato relish. I liked this version, but I think it was a little too rich because of the cheese - I'd rather stick with the usual Eggs Benedict in the future (with the addition of some avocado - yum!). 

93 O'Shanassy St
Sunbury, 3429
The Spotted Owl on Urbanspoon

June 17, 2014

Pumpkin Cinnamon rolls

I love making these pumpkin cinnamon rolls. It's just so fun to see the swirls and colours come together, as the rolls rise and bake. I know, I'm a nerd. I made them again just the other day, so I could take some to work as treats for the people I work with. They never last long around my house, and in the office it was the same.
 The recipe that I used to make these called for a caramel icing. This is one of the things that drew me to the recipe, but I found it just a little too overwhelmingly sweet. So this time I decided to try the rolls with a simple glaze. I think it worked out really well.
Pumpkin Cinnamon rolls
[printable recipe]

1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 cup plain flour
1 cup bread flour

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, melted

4 tbsp butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3-6 tbsp hot water

1. Prepare rolls: In a small saucepan, heat milk and 2 tbsp butter until just warm and butter is almost melted, stirring constantly
2. In a large mixer bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar and salt. Add milk mixture and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Beat in egg and yeast. In a seperate bowl, combine flours. Add half of the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Beat on low speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Add remaining flour and mix thoroughly (dough will be very soft). Turn into a lightly greased bowl, then grease the surface of the dough lightly. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Punch dough down. Turn onto floured surface. Knead a few turns to form a smooth dough, sprinkling with enough additional flour to make dough easy to handle. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12x10 rectangle.
4. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the top of the dough. Beginning with the long side of the dough, roll up jelly-roll style. Pinch the seams to seal. With a sharp serrated knife, gently cut the roll into twelve 1 inch slices. Place rolls cut-side-up in a greased baking pan.
5. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, 30-45 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake the rolls about 20 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the pan to a baking paper lined wire rack. Cool the buns 10-15 minutes.
7. While the rolls are cooling, prepare icing: Mix butter, icing sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Add hot water 1 tbsp at a time until the icing reaches the desired consistency. Drizzle over the top of the rolls and serve. 

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