Saturday, June 30, 2007

A1 Bakery

I first read about A1 Bakery from Adski's blog, so when I was driving past Dandenong and saw that there was an A1 Bakery, I had to pop in and have a look.

A1 Bakery is like a bakery/cafe/grocery shop all rolled into one. When I first walked in, I was literally like a kid in a candy shop. There were all these things that I had never seen before and my mind was trying to soak in everything. I first eyed all the chocolate and baked goods and was already salivating. Then I made my way down to the back to the hot food area. I ordered my pizzas and then started browsing the shelves. There were all these products I had never seen before, with the occasional glimpse of something I knew, like Dulce de Leche, which I have recently learnt is caramelised sweetened milk.

Since I didn't know what was what, I got the pizzas for my lunch. I got the Meat Pizza, only $2.50 what a bargain, and the Sausage Pizza, $4.50, also very cheap. They turned out to be nice, with the sausage pizza more to my liking. I also got some baked goods, chocolates, nougat and Turkish Delights. This whole stash of goods below cost me under $25, not bad I reckon.

The pizzas, as I said, were quite nice. The chocolates were good, with the coconut centred ones my favourite. The nougat was good too. I haven't tried the Turkish Delights yet (one can only stuff down so much food in one go) but the absolute highlights are the baked goods. I will definitely be going back just for the baked goods alone. The cylindrical thing on the left had the yummiest custardy filling. The centre top one was semolina with pistachio in the centre. It tasted like shortcrust pastry with nuts, very nice indeed. The bottom centre one I totally forgot what is was, but it was flaky type pastry and was great. The one on the right was again semolina I was told, but more in a stringy type feel. The taste again was different to the other semolina one. It was more nutty and had some other flavour I didn't recognise. None of the pastry were too sweet, unlike some other ones I had tried from the city.

I'm going to go back soon and try even more things, especially all the other pastries. I have to try and get the names so I know what is what and can order it in future at other places.

Rich Maha

Our Friday lunch group this week chose to go to Rich Maha, located on Burwood Highway near the corner of Springvale Road. Rich Maha is just a small shop with a few tables. At lunch time, they have a lunch time special, which is one meat and two vegetable dishes served with rice. I chose the Chicken 65 (I have no idea what the number 65 means but a lot of Indian restaurants have this dish) with curry vegetables and channa masala.

The chicken was hot, just the way I like it. The channa masala was good, with the chickpeas fairly soft, they could have been a bit softer still. The curry vegetables was very good. The rice is kinda dry as usual.

Wei doesn't like curry so she got this thing, forgot what it was called. It definitely looked spectacular and she said it was quite nice. I tried the coconut dip thing, which was rather strange but pleasant.

Here is the rest of the lunch group, with Tin's hand in the far left, me, Jeffrey, Keiran, Trung and Jessie. This photo was taken by Emmanuel.

Here is Trung and Hien, who was obscured by Jessie's head in the previous photo.

And finally, Emmanuel with his Nasi Goreng as usual, he hates curry too. Emmanuel warned me that I better not put his face on my blog, so here is a photo of him with his face masked for his privacy :-).

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food is ok and cheap. Dishes are brought to table quickly.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Breakfast - Sweet or Savoury?

I read in someone else's blog about a buffet breakfast they had and whether they should eat sweet or savoury foods first. I can't remember where I read it so I sorry I can't link to them. Anyway, this got me thinking, breakfast seems to be the only meal where you can eat just sweet foods and be satisfied or break the traditional meal rule and eat sweet first and then savoury.

Take for example some of my more indulgent breakfasts of the past two weeks. First we have blueberry pancakes with lots of ice cream and some fruit. Then we have Choc Chip Almond Muffins. Both of these things are very sweet but yet I feel is ok to eat first thing in the morning and be satisfied.

Most mornings, breakfast is not so indulgent and I just grab some bread. Again, I might spread some sweet stuff on it like jam or nutella, or I might put in some salami or ham. It all depends how I feel that day. Sometimes I might eat yoghurt and fruit first followed by some toast with ham. The point I want to make is that sometimes a sweet meal is all you might eat. You would never just eat lots of muffin for lunch, or heaps of fruit alone for dinner. It just doesn't fell totally satisfying when you're really hungry to just eat sweet foods. You need something savoury just to give that complete feeling. I guess people generally aren't too hungry at breakfast so something small and sweet is enough to satisfy ourselves until lunch.

I would say that I would eat sweet foods for breakfast 90% of the time, and only feel the need to eat something savoury 10% of the time. Usually its more a time constraint so bread with a sweet spread is the easiest. However, some days I do feel that I really need something savoury, so it will be some eggs or instant noodles. Which type of breakfast do you eat? Sweet or Savoury, or both in which order?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Food Bloggers Copyrights

To continue the legal theme follwing from two past posts about Defamation and Legality of Taking Food Photos, I want to explore the issue of copyrights on food posts.

I am a huge fan of Chez Pim and to me, she is THE food blogger when it comes to high class food. She has been to high class restaurants and eaten foods that I can only dream of. Anyway, I was reading her blog and came across her post about some other website stealing her blog contents here, here and here. Firstly, morally, stealing anything without credit is wrong. Legally, I'm sure its also wrong, but what are the penalties. Who do you report this to, and what would be the outcome anyway. I don't think anyone would bother wasting money going to court about it, and I don't think the courts would care over such small issues anyway. I don't know what the legal proceedings are involving copyrights.

I know that anything that I write on this blog is automatically granted copyright to me. If someone steals one of my posts, what are my rights and what exactly can I get them to do. Can I ask them to remove it or credit me? It's a very interesting topic and may have happened to a lot of us without even knowing about it. For most of us who run a blog for enjoyment, it would merely be an annoyance. But what if your blog was a way for you to make money, would the situation then be completely different. Would the thief then be stealing revenue off you, and therefore committing a much bigger crime?

The problem with most laws is that usually technology moves much faster than the laws can catch up with. There are many issues with cyber crimes nowadays and I guess stealing content is another one. In days past, if you steal literary work from someone else and try to pass it off as your own and print it in a book, if it is found out, your reputation will be completely destroyed and you will be sued. But it is so easy to run an anonymous website and post stolen content. It would also be very hard to find out since the web is so large. It's gotten to the point where the contents (text and photos) from bloggers are so professional that its much easier for other publications and websites to just use already available content rather than go and do their own work, which costs money. In most cases, large publications will contact the original creator and get permission, giving them credit and maybe financial rewards. But for smaller sites, the cost effective way is to just steal and hope no one finds out.

Has anyone ever had the contents of their blogs copied? Has anyone been approached by other publications to use their work? I haven't had the honour of being asked for my work to be used, and as far as I know, no one has copied any work off my blog yet. I guess my reaction to my work being copied would depend on the context, but I would rather be credited instead.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Coco Roco Defamation Case

I just read Truffles post about Coco Roco suing the newspaper for Matthew Evans' review of them. I vaguely remember hearing about this case a while back but didn't think much of it. However, after recently being threatened to be sued by Bar Lourinha myself, I am very interested in hearing what the final finding will be.

I'm sure my threats from Bar Lourinha are just empty threats, more of a scare tactic rather than a serious threat. I've sent them a reply email and I haven't heard back. I'm positive that they have nothing legally against me as my review wasn't even that negative and taking photos of the food is perfectly legal. Also, the money they would have to spend to take it to court against such a tiny blog as this would not justify it.

However, Coco Roco's case against Fairfax may have some legs in terms of Evans' review having a huge readership and hence a great effect. Since I am unable to find Evans' original review, its hard to say whether what he wrote is defamatory. It's hard to draw the line between defamatory, opinion and fact sometimes. If I say for example that "this restaurants food was awful, the rice was overdone and way too salty", is that defamatory? I think its just my opinion and that I am stating a fact as I see it. Instead if I were to say "this restaurants food is awful, the chef cooks like a twelve year old without any lessons", in my opinion, this statement would be defamatory. But I'm not expert in this case, especially with the legal side of things. Common sense doesn't always rule in the court of law. I waiting eagerly to find out what the ruling will be. Hopefully Coco Roco's lawsuit fails, or all restaurant reviewers, food bloggers included, may not be able to write their truthful opinions anymore.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Alpino Restaurant - How To Lose Patrons In One Meal

I went to Lygon Street with Dennis and Patrick looking for a quick and fairly cheap meal since we had somewhere to go afterwards. We ended up settling on Alpino as a random choice since we didn't have any specific restaurant already chosen. Well, Alpino have managed to lose our patronage for a very long time with some very dirty tricks that they pulled. More about that later. Firstly, I will review their restaurant and food as fairly as I can, but having said that, their score will be serverly affected by our experience there.

To start with, the restaurant is a small cosy place with an upstairs area. The decorations are typical of many Italian restaurants on Lygon, with some fake columns and vines on the wall and a Ferrari flag. The service wasn't particularly good, with the waiters a bit rough but not in the happy jokey kind of way.

The waiter asked us what drinks we wanted and I ordered a beer while the others ordered ice chocolates. Then he asked us if we wanted to order entrees while we decided what mains we wanted. I declined and said we were ready to order mains. He said ok so I proceeded to roll off our order when he said to wait and ran off and got a pad and pen. Why don't waiters carry a pad and pen in their pockets all the time? Anyway, so then I retold him our mains orders. After I was done, again he asked me if we wanted any entrees first. Again I said, no thank you. When he brought us our drinks, he again asked us if we wanted entrees, like some Bruschetta or Garlic Bread. Again I said no. How many times does one need to upsold something one clearly does not want and has declined twice already? That's a rhetorical question by the way, as the answer would be once and once only.

The meals we got to share from left going clockwise are the Beef and Reef, Risotto Marinara, Steak Campagna and Fettucine Carbonara. The Beef and Reef was supposedly an eye fillet steak with seafood on top and a creamy sauce. The steak didn't taste like eye fillet as it was extremely chewy and definitely was not medium cooked as I had asked. Patrick was cutting it into smaller pieces when he asked me "How well did you ask for this to be cooked, overdone?". My reply was "No!, I asked for it medium as we always get it." Besides the steak being chewy, it was also flavourless. It tasted nothing like beef and the sauce flavour was non-existent. Also, the so-called seafood were prawns that had been soaked in water for way too long until they were translucent, one scrawny scallop that a supermodel would complain was too small, one equally anorexic mussel and two cockles that the chef couldn't be bothered to open.

The Risotto Marinara was my favourite dish of the night. It had nice flavours and I like the calarmari in it. The large-head prawn meat was very mushy, possibly cooked too long or prawns that aren't fresh. Prawns that are pre-cooked and left overnight in the fridge tend to have meat that becomes mushy I have found.

The Steak Campagna was the same as the other steak, chewy, flavourless and overcooked. Again the sauce was non-existent.

The Fettucine Carbonara was ok but nothing special. In fact, my local pizza place does one that is equally good, much cheaper too.

For dessert, we got the Tiramisu, as Dennis and I both love Tiramisu. However, this one was very dry and crumbly almost. It was worse than the Tiramisu I made.

The second dessert we got to share was the Strawberry Pancakes. Patrick was very hesitant as he said that no place could ever do strawberry pancakes justice as the unfortunately shut down Lazar's Charcoal Grill. I said that he wouldn't know until he tried it. Well it turned out the pancakes were quite bad, and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as those from Lazar's. These pancakes used supermarket strawberry sauce from a jar, which tastes terrible and so fake. The tiny strawberries weren't exactly sweet and juicy. Compared that to the best strawberry pancakes ever from Lazar's, where the simple crepe (made by Mrs Lazar personally, each and every one), covers some of the sweetest and plump strawberries you will ever taste (freshly delivered each day from the local farms as the waiter informed us) and covered in a home made strawberry sauce and served with delicious vanilla ice cream. That pancake just screamed simplicity and freshness in each bite. I'm salivating now as I write this. Too bad Lazar's is no longer open. Alpino could also learn a thing or two about steaks from Lazar's, whose steaks didn't need any sauce but yet were so full of flavour, at exactly the same price too as Alpino's rubber steaks.

Ok, so now to why I won't eat there again. It's not even because the food wasn't that good. It was the way they tricked us. As most people who have visited Lygon Street know, the street is full of so many restaurants that choice is king. This means that owners now stand on the street and literally lure patrons into their restaurant. We happened to park right in front of Alpino, so we got out and were about to begin walking the street to see what was good. The owner, quite literally grabbed us (or Dennis anyway) and said that all meals and drinks were 10% off for us. We took a look at the displayed menu and the prices seemed very cheap already, and since we were after a quick and cheap meal, this seemed the perfect place.

Once we looked at the menu carefully when seated, this was when we discovered that the prices they displayed outside was for entrees, with mains sizes a further extra $4. This was written in black bold writing on the menu, and I clearly saw it so knew that this was the case. This wasn't a good sign, but we let that slip since we were going to get the entree size and the 10% off would make it roughly even.

When we ordered our meals, we ordered the two steaks and we wanted entree sizes for the risotto and pasta, as we thought that would be enough. So I just said to the waiter that we wanted the risotto and pasta, at no stage saying that I wanted the mains size. Halfway during the meal, as we were sitting near the counter, I overhear a lady arguing with the staff about why she was charged an extra $4 for both her pasta. She said that she hadn't indicated that she wanted the mains size. I didn't catch the rest of the conversation but made a mental note to look at our bill carefully.

Come time for our bill, we too were also charged the extra $4 for the risotto and pasta. We thought we had got the entree sizes as the servings were very small so this was a shock to us. When I went to pay, I asked the staff (who seemed to be the owner's wife) why we had been charged an extra $4. She said that it was on the menu. I said that I saw that, but I didn't ask for the mains size. Her reply was that we had eaten it already and so should pay for it. I said it wasn't a matter of not paying for the meals, but we thought we had gotten the entree sizes we wanted and since the servings were so small, we went ahead and ate it. She then said that many restaurants did this in terms of different prices for entrees and mains. My reply was that I agreed, having been to many places that do this, especially for pasta. But when you order, you always get what the base price is for, the price written in large font. Only when you explicitly ask for the larger size do you get charged extra. It's not assumed that you want the extra things and that you should pay for it without knowing. She wouldn't budge on the issue, so I stood there, clearly waiting for my change which she didn't look like giving. I was almost about to ask her for my $3 change. I wasn't going to give them one cent in tips.

How ridiculous is this situation. We were firstly tricked with the signage at the front that apparently displayed the "entree" sized prices without saying so clearly. Then it was assumed that we wanted the "mains" sized serving when we didn't explicitly ask for it. Which restaurants assumes you want the extra stuff at the higher price without you explicitly saying. So in future if I order a pasta that has the option of caviar on top of it, even if I don't say I want it, they will give it to me and charge me for it? As far as I have experienced, you always get what is priced for the meal and only get charge extra when you ask for a larger size. The waiters don't go and assume you want the larger and more expensive serving.

So my overall impressions of Alpino was already not great considering the food, but with the extra insult of the pricing (it turned out not to be that cheap, even with the discount, it still cost us $36 each, way too much considering how many other options there are on Lygon), it totally soured my experience and opinion of the place.

Overall Rating: 6/20, Points for the atmosphere and the risotto. Lots of minus points for the deception, the overall attitude of the lady owner and how expensive it turned out to be, having been lured in on the basis of cheap prices.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Alpino Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chocolate Cake - Durian Frosting and Black Forest

After having buttermilk leftover from making the Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Espresso Frosting, I decided to make more chocolate cakes.

I followed the same recipe as previously and which can be found at Cream Puffs in Venice. This time, I decided to try other toppings and see how they went.

Firstly, I happened to have two boxes of durian that had just been removed from the durian skin the previous night, so I had to try a durian cream mix. I just beat up thickened cream and mixed in the durian. This durian was a particularly good one that was ultra pungent and had that slight bitter flavour. I'm telling you, the cake doesn't look that good, but it tastes unbelievable, for lovers of durian that is. For those that hate durian, this cake would smell worse than a rubbish tip.

For the second of the cakes that one batch of ingredients makes, I went for a slightly safer option. I made a black forest cake. Again, it ultilised some thickened cream (cream really are the worse treated ingredients, they get beaten up all the time, boom boom, awful jokes aside, lets move on) that I whipped to stiff peaks and added some sugar to the right sweetness. Don't make it too sweet as you then add black pitted cherries that are soaked in sugar syrup, which you can buy in a can. Then you just assemble the top layer, add some more cream and decorate with shaved chocolate and some wonderfully fresh strawberries. It tastes wonderful and looks a treat as well. I think this cake would be another one that I will make for birthday cakes, it just looks so appealing. This is the swan cake while the durian one is the ugly duckling cake, although they are one and the same cake, its all in the transformation afterwards.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Yarra Valley Wineries

It was Paul's birthday so that was an excuse as any for all of us to do another winery tour. This time we chose to go to the Yarra Valley. So Paul, Kin, Jo, Phuong and I packed into Paul's car and drove to the Yarra Valley, about 40 minutes away from us. The Yarra Valley consists of areas like Lilydale, Coldstream, Healsville and Yarra Glen.

We kept telling Paul to open his present as he could use it immediately. But he kept thinking it was something rude and we were setting him up. Finally, we talked him into opening his beautifully wrapped present (good job Kin) and found that he got a electric car seat massager. He still wouldn't use it though.

The first stop for the day Helen's Hill winery. We were really excited and commenting how large the vineyard was and saw the huge metallic barrels in the shed. After looking at the beautiful parrots in the trees, we went to the cellar door. We got up the ramp and looked around, waiting for someone to come and greet us. It was already 11:30am so wasn't exactly early. After shouting out a few times and ten minutes wait, no one came so we decided to leave. We could have helped ourselves to a couple of cases of wine and no one would have known. What establishment are they running. It's a public holiday so would be busy but yet there is no one around to meet customers. Their famour Vines restaurant which we had heard about and was eager to try was also closed. A total disappointment all round.

The next stop lifted our spirits however. Going from the huge vineyard of Helen's Hill, we went to the tiny one of Brumfield At The Oaks, where we warmly greeted by the wood fireplace and David and Anda. They were so welcoming and invited us in to their house almost. We tried out all of their wines while David explained the processes and different flavours to us. As I written previoiusly about the Red Hill winery trip, places that tend to explain things to me usually get my attention more and I will be more likely to buy something. Places that are too busy to be bothered with me usually don't get my business unless they really have some spectacular wines. But I usually don't even get round to trying them because they don't bother asking what you like and then suggesting things that you will probably enjoy. Some larger places just don't have the time of day for you, defeating the purpose of their wine tasting areas.

Anyway I'm waffling again. So David explained each wine and I totally loved the two Shiraz he had, so I bought a bottle of each. The central region Shiraz was the highlight of the day for me.

The next stop was at the junction of Moorondah Highway and some other major road I can't remember. It was the Yarra Valley Gateway Estate, which was less a winery than a grocery store. They had all these hydroponic fruits and vegetables, with a wine tasting area at the counter. Again, the service is good here and Brett, I think, explained the wines of the region and their peculiarities to us. I didn't really like any of the wines, but Jo like one so bought it.

We were next enticed by a sign for Yearing Farm, which promised an assortment of dairy products, jams and wines. They lived up to their promises and it was a great place, despite the slightly strong manure odour wafting in the car park. They had a very large range of wines, including some older vintage ones. We tried a few and again I didn't particularly like any. Jo and Kin liked some so again bought some.

The view outside of their windows at the rolling clouds and mountains was very nice.

After trying wines, we also did cheese tasting. There were a lot of different goat's cheese, most of which I found rather too strong for me. I did like the cow's cheese with herbs but not enough to buy it. In the glass display cabinet next to the cheese was this Duck Neck Sausage. We were arguing over whether you eat it cold or have to cook it. Jo was eventually correct when the assistant told us you eat it cold. Being the curious kind, I asked if we could buy one and eat it in the shop. The assistant said we could, and suggested some crackers to go with it. I liked the Duck Neck Sausage, which was stuffed with duck's neck, pork, nuts and other things. The others didn't like it that much, but I enjoyed it. It was like a mixture between pate and terrine.

From Yering Farm, we popped over to Yering Station, a stone's throw away. It was probably the most architecturally advanced winery of all we visited. There huge modern glass restaurant building contrasted with the brick cellar door but was drawn together by the exquisite manicured gardens and the visually stunning rows of huge trees with yellow leaves. Below is my only artistic shot of the day.

The cellar door contained one end where there was a lot of jams, chocolates and sauces. I was fascinated by the truffle oil, verjuice and Tetsuya's salt mix. I wanted to by the salt mix, but it was rather expensive so decided against it. It was only salt after all and I couldn't justify spending $30 for a tiny jar of salt the size of my thumb. The wine tasting bar itself was packed. Although the assistant offered us glasses immediately, the service thereafter was extremely slow, so slow in fact that we got bored and left. The assistants were too busy being "cool" and were huddled in the middle cleaning glasses more than serving drinks. They didn't really bother explaining the wines either. I guess that is where the difference between big and small wineries lie. At the small winery, the owners are passionate about their produce and believe in it. Here at Yering Station, the hippie looking 20 somethings looked like they were just doing a job.

The next stop was De Bortoli. As they were a larger winery, I was again expecting service to be bad. But it was actually very good. The more mature ladies were very helpful in explaining things to us. I liked their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon so got a bottle of that. The grounds here were least interesting of all the wineries. The cellar door sat atop a hill and although the view down was good, there wasn't much to explore besides the car park.

The next stop was Oakridge. Again we were welcomed and served wine for tasting. After I tasted their Chardonnay, I regretted buying the Sauvignon Blanc Semillon at De Bortoli. This white Chardonnay was so much nice so I got a bottle. Jo and Kin went all out and got two Rose, Shiraz and Chardonnay.

Starting to feel the effects of all the wine, we headed to one last winery. Also it was getting late and places were starting to close. The last stop was Domine Chandon. This place was excellent for a wonder around their huge gardens and art galleries. The gardens were huge and perfet for a wedding as everyone pointed out. The wine tasting area was inside the main building. The assistant was very helpful in explaining about their sparkling wines, the first sparkling that we tried all day. It was very good and at a good price. So Paul and Jo bought some.

It was time to go home after as we were all tired and hungry. After a lot of ummming and arrrrrring in the car over where to go to eat, we finally decided that we wanted to stuff ourselves, so went to Little Lamb in Box Hill for some buffet hot pot. It was another great day of wine tasting. I'm really getting into this wine tasting thing as I like to drink good wine more and more with meals now. The wines of the different regions really are very different and I can pick out different flavours in the wine now. Till the next winery tour, happy drinking to everyone.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake With Chocolate Espresso Buttercream

After promising to make a cake for a friends return to work and another friend's birthday, I scoured my favourite blogs looking for a recipe. I found what I was looking for at Cream Puffs in Venice with this Chocolate Buttermilk Cake With Chocolate Espresso Buttercream. I won't bother reproducing the recipe as I didn't make any changes, so just follow the link to get the full recipe and instructions. The quantities outlined in the recipe was enough for me to make two whole cakes fully frosted. This was the larger of the two cakes at about 9 inch round while the smaller cake was about 6 inch round.

I love the cake itself. It's a nice mixture of chocolate and coffee and the buttermilk makes the cake beautifully smooth. The chocolate espresso cream is also quite nice. It makes a good contrast to the cake although I would probably make it a little less sweet next time. I might try another frosting on the cake next time and see how that goes. The cake is not to hard to make. The only step that you have to wait for is when you make the espresso custard and have to let that set for about an hour in the fridge. But you can do that while the cake is baking and when the cake is done, you can use the custard to make the buttercream frosting and the timing is all just right.

EDIT: I've decided to post the recipe in case other people's blogs go down but mainly so its all easier to find when I want to make this recipe again myself.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Espresso Buttercream

For the cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/3 cups vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1-1/2 cups freshly brewed hot coffee
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch round baking pans. Line the bottoms of the pan with parchment paper.
* Place all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa) in the bowl of an electric mixer. Either with a whisk or with the paddle attachment, gently mix together the dry ingredients until combined.
* Add the oil and buttermilk and mix on medium speed until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
* Add the eggs, one at a time, with the mixer on low. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
* Add the coffee and vanilla extract and mix on low speed until smooth. The batter will be very liquidy so be careful not to splash yourself!
* Divide the batter between the two pans and bake in the oven until the cake springs back when lightly touched. The recipe indicates that this should take 30 to 35 minutes, however, in my oven it took closer to 45 minutes!
* Once done, remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.

For the Chocolate Espresso Buttercream:

2 cups half-and-half cream (10% to 12% milk fat)
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (I use the Medaglia D’Oro brand)
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup of finely grated chocolate (I used Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate)

* In a saucepan, mix together the half-and-half cream, the egg yolk, the cornstarch and the espresso powder. Once mixed, turn the heat on medium-high.
* Stir the mixture constantly until it comes to a boil and is very thick (this should take about 5 minutes; you will know that it is ready when you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir the mixture).
* Strain the mixture into a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on the surface (to prevent the formation of a skin) and refrigerate until cool (about 45 minutes).
* Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer and add the sugar. Mix on high speed with the paddle attachment for 10 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. The butter should be light, fluffy and almost white in colour.
* Add the salt and mix.
* With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cooled half-and-half/espresso custard. Mix well.
* Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
* Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the grated chocolate.

To assemble the cake:

* If the tops of the chocolate buttermilk cake are not even, use a knife to thinly slice off the uneven bits from the top of the cake.
* Set one cake half, bottom-side down on a cake plate or platter.
* Spoon about 1/3 of the Chocolate Espresso Buttercream on top of the cake half and spread to within an inch of the cake border.
* Place the the second half of the cake on the first half, top-side down. Gently press the top of the cake to ensure that it is even and that the two halves stay firmly together.
* With the remaining 2/3 Chocolate Espresso Buttercream, frost the entire cake. You can either frost just the top or the entire cake. If you frost the entire cake, you will have just enough frosting.
* If you have any chocolate left over, use a vegetable peeler to shave the chocolate and garnish the cake with the chocolate shavings.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Taj Agra

Taj Agra is located on Mooroonday Highway in Ringwood. It has a small shop front which is easy to miss, but its near Eastland shopping centre. There is parking round the back and you can enter the restaurant from the back entrance.

Once you enter the restaurant, you are assaulted by both smell and sight. The whole restaurant is mainly red, with red carpet, walls and white chairs everywhere. The word I used to describe it was "tacky", but apparently this is traditional Indian interior decoration I was informed by Keiran. Jessie, Keiran and I were seated at a table near the front, under this carpet on the ceiling and a very nice painting/jewel artwork thing.

We ordered the banquet ($26), as that looked very nice and we wanted to try a lot of different things. We were served papadums to begin with and while we were nibbling on that and drinking our respective drinks, the entrees arrived already. As we were there early and there weren't many people yet, the food arrived quite quickly, but still enough time to finish things and have a short break in between as well.

The entrees were a Samosa each, a tangy salad and Kebabs served on a sizzling plate. The samosa was ok, but lacked flavour so I ate it with the chilli sauce, which made it a lot tastier. I liked the salad which had a tangy flavour to it. The various meats on the sizzling plate were very good, and the caramelised onion added a nice flavour. The entree servings were large for entrees.

Next up was the main banquet mains. There was Beef Vindaloo, Butter Chicken, Fish Curry (can't remember exact type), Vegetable Curry (again forgot the type), Yoghurt Dip, Rice and Garlic Naan.

I love naan, especially garlic naan so got lots of that and started piling on the curries. The beef vindaloo was extremely hot but very yummy at the same time. It went really well with the naan, which had a hint of being burnt which I like.

The other not hot curries were the fish curry and vegetable curry. The fish curry had a tomoato type flavour to it and was good too. I'm not a huge fan of fish so only had a few piece. The vegetable curry had a very interesting flavour that I couldn't identify but I particularly liked the potato pieces. I loved the butter chicken the most, as it was creamy and went perfectly with the naan. The chicken pieces were sufficently soft.

The servings were more than enough and we couldn't finish most things. I was so full I couldn't stuff down the rest of the naan even, let alone touch the rice. It seemed rather wasteful but we tried our best throughout the night and managed to stuff ourselves to maximum capacity so that only the rice and fish curry was left.

The promise of mango ice cream on the menu did not eventuate. Instead we got plain vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce. The generic brand ice cream and strawberry sauce was the only slight disappointment of the night. To finish things off, we got coffee and tea.

The service was good, with things cleared promptly and requests for things fulfilled. Getting the waiters attention was a little harder and you had to literally stop them on their way past but otherwise service was good.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food and service good and banquet is great value for money.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Passionfruit Cupcakes

I read about these passionfruit cupcakes originally from Cindy, who had compiled a list of recipes using passionfruit. The original recipe was from Melbourne Larder.

I have re-posted the recipe below with my own slight variation on the frosting.

Passionfruit Cupcakes

125g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
60ml passionfruit juice and seeds (I like the crunchiness of biting into a seed occasionally)

Cut the passionfruit in half, scoop out the pulp and put that in a bowl with the juice.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the sifted flour and the passionfruit juice and pulp. Spoon into a 12-cup muffin tin, lined with paper cases. Bake at 180 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean.

Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting

375 g Softened Cream Cheese
125g Softened Butter
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Essence
2 Cups Icing Sugar (add more or less icing to your liking)

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Mix in vanilla essence and icing sugar until the desired sweetness. I like the frosting to just be sweet enough to still retain a bit of the sour flavour of the cream cheese. This helped to break up the cupcakes which are already quite sweet.

Spread icing over cupcakes when cool. The cupcakes taste really good and are so simple to make. Give them a try. I'm going to try various other flavour combinations soon to see what else works well.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Update on Bar Lourinha Threatening Email

After receiving Bar Lourinha's threatening email for me to remove my review (in particular the food photos) of them or face legal action, I immediately sent back the following reply.


If this is really the owner of Bar Lourinha, firstly I'm honoured that you are reading my blog.

If I may ask so that I can rectify the problem, which part of the review do you take offence to? As for the review part, I'm sure that I can write that so will not be removing that part. The photos themselves are quite good shots I think. I've seen photos of your food on other bloggers site that are far worse, will you be threatening to sue them too? Which photos exactly do you have a problem with and what about them is the problem?

If this is just a joke to generate more buzz for your restaurant, good work. Because I will be talking about your email and people's rights to take photos in restaurants on my next post on my blog.

Hope to hear your response.


I didn't particularly think I was doing anything wrong. Since its been nearly a week and I haven't got a reply, I was starting to think it was all a practical joke by someone. That was until I got an email each from both Mellie and ElegantGourmand from Tummy Rumbles. Their emails basically said the same thing and has now once and for all confirmed that the threatening email was from Matt McConnell of Bar Lourinha.

ElegantGourmand has requested a menu from Bar Lourinha last year, and he got a personal reply from Matt with instructions that they only take bookings for their private dining room upstairs. The email address from that email to ElegantGourmand is exactly the same as the email address from the email to me. It even has the same email signature, with the squiggly thing above the letter a of Lourinha.

So now I guess I wait to see if they wish to pursue their legal threat and go through with sueing me. I doubt that very much as I'm certain I have not broken any laws. Why they would send a threatening email to me in the first place is beyond me. My review wasn't defamatory, the photos looked nice and I even recommended people to still go there if they like a noisy environment. Even if they really wanted me to remove the review, a nice email asking politely would have done. I would have felt totally honoured that a restaurant owner emailed me personally to request something. Rather, sending this threatening email has put me off their restaurant for life (or for a very long at least). I will boycotting their restaurant unless they offer me an apology. I mean I always preferred Movida for my Spanish food anyway, but now Bar Lourinha will not even be second or third option for Spanish food. They have lost this food loving, restaurant recommending patron for quite a while.