Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Paniyiri Reminder

Just a quick reminder that Paniyiri, the great festival of Greek food, wine, dance, olive eating competitions etc is on this weekend. Here's my earlier post with all the details. It should be a great day if this sunny weather holds up.

Saturday 4 July 2009 & Sunday 5 July 2009
Musgrave Park and The Greek Club
Edmondstone Street
South Brisbane 4101
W - http://www.paniyiri.com/

Monday, 29 June 2009

Grapevine Gourmet Cafe & Deli

The Grapevine Gourmet Cafe & Deli is a local spot which we hadn't visited until recently. It's a pretty innocuous looking cafe on Blackwood Street, and I've probably walked past it a hundred times without ever setting foot inside.

After showing up to Cafe Urbano at Stafford, only to find the place completely booked out (for breakfast!), we ended up back at the Grapevine Gourmet Cafe & Deli.

On receiving the menu, I was impressed to see that they adopt the "build your own breakfast" idea. Toast is $2.20, and then you just add whatever takes your fancy. Each addition is another $2.20. So my order of gluten free toast, bacon, poached eggs and their house made baked beans was a bargain at $8.80. If you're ravenous, you can keep adding mushrooms, sausages, potatoes, tomato etc until your stomach is happy. The Grapevine Gourmet Cafe is one of the very few places in Brisbane that actually has a choice of gluten free bread (fruit toast, white or grain).

Our food came out quickly, because the cafe was pretty quiet when we arrived. Although I'd have to say that the serving of bacon was a bit on the skimpy side, that was the only (very minor) quibble I had. Otherwise the gluten free toast was perfectly cooked, the poached eggs were excellent, and the house made beans rounded out a great breakfast. For under $9, it was super value.

My wife ordered a house made sweet potato and apple muffin, which was served with a drizzle of maple syrup. To keep the healthy theme going, she also had a bowl of fruit salad and yoghurt. The muffin was a star - it had lovely spice through it, was nice and moist and turned out to be a great alternative to a savoury breakfast.

Our coffees were good (it's Coffee Mio), but the real winner on the drinks front was the mango frappe ($4.40). This was basically a big glass of almost frozen, pureed mango. It was absolutely divine, and exactly what you want to be drinking on a sunny Brisbane morning. I'll definitely be ordering one next time.

The surroundings are pretty basic, with tables both inside and out. Sure it's not the place you'd take the Queen for breakfast, but for me, the most important thing is always the standard of the food, which has been very good on both our visits. I'm glad we finally made it through the door at the Grapevine, because it serves up much better breakfasts than many more overpriced options around Brisbane.

Last but not least, the service was very friendly. There only appeared to be two staff on, who were basically doing all the cooking, as well as the service. But even so, they went out of their way to make us feel welcome, and took the time to talk to all of us, both during and after the meal. A few personal touches like that really make a difference. I've also noticed that there seem to be a good proportion of regular customers, who the staff know by name, which is always a good sign.

What does all this mean? A great value, friendly, build-your-own breakfast spot in Mitchelton.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Casual, suburban cafe
Value for money - Top Shelf
Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - Great

Grapevine Gourmet Cafe & Deli
32 Blackwood Street
Mitchelton 4053
P - 07 3355 2204

Sunday, 28 June 2009

O'Brien Brewery Gluten Free Beer

One of the biggest things I was concerned about when I found out I had coeliac disease was beer. How was I going to survive without beer? Luckily there have been a few gluten free beers come on the market in Australia over the last couple of years, much to my relief.

The best gluten free beer I've tasted so far has been made by O'Brien Brewery. O'Brien Brewery is in Ballarat, and is apparently the only completely gluten-free brewery in the country. There are three O'Brien beers - a premium lager, brown ale and pale ale. Of the three, I prefer the premium lager as the best all-rounder, however the ales really come into their own during the cooler months. Best of all, they all actually taste like beer, not some watery imitation.

Since it was first released , the price has dropped about $10 a case, but it's still really expensive. The last carton I bought from Dan Murphy's was about $75, so it's not the kind of beer you can just guzzle away. Otherwise you can order it directly from the O'Brien Brewing website, which also has information on where you can buy the beer all over Australia. I've found that most Dan Murphy's in Brisbane seem to stock at least one of the O'Brien beers.

O'Brien Brewery
PO Box 191
Ascot Vale VIC 3032
P - 1300 432 337
W - http://www.obrienbrewing.com.au/

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Operation Kerplonk

Operation Kerplonk is a new marketing campaign by Fifth Leg wines. Although I'm sure Fosters don't need my help with their marketing, this one is pretty funny. You can watch the Operation Kerplonk video here - I laughed out loud a few times, especially for the lady asking about "crap" dinner party wines.

Anyway, the gist of Operation Kerplonk is that between 5pm and 9pm on 7 July 2009, you can take along a bottle of "inferior" wine to participating bottle shops, and they'll swap it for a bottle of Fifth Leg White. And before you rush out to buy cartons of $2 cleanskins to swap over, there is a limit of one bottle per customer. Good to see Fifth Leg coming up with an original (and funny) ad campaign.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Spano's Super IGA Stafford

When it comes to supermarkets, I generally find their food selection to be pretty pedestrian. Very rarely do I find a trip to Woolworths or Coles particularly exciting from a food point of view.

Every now and again though I come across a supermarket that stands out from the crowd. This time it was Spano's Super IGA at Stafford. I'd been to the Super IGA at Stafford before it underwent its recent renovation, and don't remember being particularly overwhelmed. But we were at Stafford on Sunday and ended up doing our weekly grocery shopping there, to save a bit of time. As it turned out we took about twice as long as usual, because I was bowled over by the great range of products which they carried.

To give you an example, next to the meat section was a freezer full of rabbit, duck breasts, emu, spatchcock and crocodile. I wanted to buy one of everything, but settled on a couple of duck breasts. I used to eat duck for dinner pretty regularly in both Ireland and England (where you could always pick them up from Tesco), so I'm glad to see them popping up in Brisbane. I had a chat to the manager, who told me that although they weren't selling a lot of duck, the rabbit, emu and crocodile were flying out the door.

Other delicious goodies which caught my eye (most of which made it into the trolley) were Barambah Organics yoghurt, Byron Gourmet Pies (gluten free), Alli & Rose corn chips (with spinach or beetroot), quinoa and some amazing looking gluten free pizza bases.

If you (like me) are bored with your local supermarket, drive over to Stafford and check out the Super IGA. Although it's not our closest supermarket, I'll be happy to drive the extra distance for their fantastic selection of food. If only there were more supermarkets like this in Brisbane!

Spano's Super IGA
Stafford City Shopping Centre
400 Stafford Road
Stafford 4053
P - 07 3356 3613
W - http://www.spanosiga.com.au/

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Brisbane Fine Wine Festival

Just when you thought there could be no more wine events, along comes another one. This time it's the Brisbane Fine Wine Festival, which is running this weekend.

There will be over 600 wines to taste from all over Australia, together with a few international drops. Tickets are $30 for a day session, or $40 if you are attending in the evening.

As part of the program there are plenty of masterclasses being held, all of which involve some kind of food prepared by local chefs. Masterclass tickets are an additional $25. You'll find plenty more information on the website.

Brisbane Fine Wine Festival
Friday 26 June - Sunday 28 June 2009
Mercure Hotel
Corner Ann Street and North Quay
Brisbane 4000
W - http://www.winefestival.com.au/

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Katnook Estate Wine Dinner

If you're a wine lover you must be enjoying the plethora of tastings and dinners which are happening all over town at the moment.

I've already put up a post about the Central Otago Tasting which is on Tuesday night, but if you prefer your wines from Coonawarra, then grab a ticket to the Katnook Estate Wine Dinner at Era instead.

Wayne Stehbens, the senior winemaker from Katnook Estate, will be there to guide you through the wines, including the 2001 Odyssey cabernet sauvignon.

Tickets are $110, which includes canapes, a two course dinner, cheese and a few glasses of Katnook Estate vino. You'll need to book a ticket beforehand from Era (the photo is courtesy of Katnook Estate).

Katnook Estate Wine Dinner
Tuesday 16 June 2009, 7pm
Era Bistro
Corner Melbourne & Merivale Streets
South Brisbane 4101
P - 07 3255 2033
E - admin@erabistro.com.au
W - http://www.erabistro.com.au/

Nectar Beer & Wine Specialists

In these days where run of the mill bottleshops like Liquorland & BWS seem to be making an appearance in almost every suburb of Brisbane, I get a real kick out of finding a wine shop that shows a bit of individuality.

Last night I popped into Nectar in West End. It's a pretty small wine/beer shop, but it has a fantastic range. A whole wall is taken up with beers from pretty much everywhere - apparently they stock more than 250 beers. This is definitely the place to visit next time you're wanting to try out a few new brews.

On the wine front, thought has gone into the range, which means there are wines from small vineyards and organic producers. It's great to walk up to a wine fridge and see it full of interesting wines rather than the usual (unimaginative) suspects. I walked out with a bottle of Belgravia sauvignon blanc from Orange for $20. I visited the Belgravia cellar door in Orange a few years ago, but until last night I can't remember ever seeing one of their white wines in a Brisbane wine fridge.

If you're looking for something other than beer or wine, Nectar also stocks French ciders - I'll definitely be going back to try out a few of them.

If only there were more bottleshops in Brisbane like Nectar. Hopefully it will be well supported by all the thirsty West End restaurant patrons.

Nectar Beer & Wine Specialists
114 Boundary Street
West End 4101
P - 07 3846 4655
E - sales@nectarwines.com.au
W - http://www.nectarwines.com.au/

Thursday, 11 June 2009

South Bank Regional Flavours

It's cold tonight, so I'll keep this post short and sweet. If I sit at the computer too long my fingers are likely to freeze off, which would probably be the end of the blog.

Anyway, this Saturday get along to the South Bank Regional Flavours event, which features about 80 stalls of food and wine from the Granite Belt, Darling Downs, North & South Burnett, the Scenic Rim and Gold Coast. Sounds like a great way to spend a winter's day.

South Bank Regional Flavours
Saturday 13 June 2009, 10am to 3pm
Little Stanley Street
South Bank 4101
W - www.visitsouthbank.com.au/regionalflavours

When is a sandwich a scanwich?

Looking for inspiration for your next perfect sandwich? Then look no further than Scanwiches. It's a website devoted entirely to photos of New York sandwiches that have been scanned - creating the scanwich.

I'd hate to think what their scanner looks like, but I'm getting hungry just scrolling through the site. The Dac Biet (pictured - 2 types of Vietnamese ham, house paté, cucumber, carrots & coriander on a baguette) looks like my kind of lunch.

W - http://scanwiches.com/

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Central Otago Wine Tasting

This year's Central Otago Wine Tasting is being held at Brett's Wharf on 16 June 2009.

If you're a fan of pinot noir, or New Zealand wine, then I suggest you pop over to taste the wines on offer. Central Otago is probably best known at the moment for its pinot noir. I'm not the world's greatest fan of the Central Otago style, but I love pinot, so I'll be going. I went last year and thought the night was excellent. In particular, it was probably the best food I've ever had a stand up wine tasting. Hopefully the food is up to the same high standard this year.

Participating wineries include Carrick, Amisfield, Mount Edward, Mt Difficulty, Olssens and Sam Neill's Two Paddocks.

Tickets are $30, available from The Wine Emporium.

Central Otago Wine Tasting
Tueday 16 June 2009, 6.00pm to 8.00pm
Brett's Wharf
449 Kingsford Smith Drive
Hamilton 4007

The Wine Emporium
P - 07 3252 1117
W - http://www.thewineemporium.com.au/

Monday, 8 June 2009

Cheese Tastes 09

There are so many food & wine events on at the moment it's hard to keep track of them all. The next one to squeeze into your calendar is Cheese Tastes 09.

As you might have guessed from the name, its a cheesy affair. Cheese Tastes 09 is a public event being held in conjunction with the Brisbane Cheese Awards this weekend.

The website proclaims that "the largest range of delicious Australian cheeses ever seen in one location in Brisbane will be available to taste, savour and buy" - sounds like a good way to occupy a few hours.

General tickets are $25 through Ticketek if you buy them before 10 June 2009, otherwise they'll set you back $30. There are also masterclasses during the day, which are a further $35.

Cheese Tastes 09
Sunday 14 June 2009, 10.30am to 4.30pm
Royal on the Park
Alice Street
Brisbane 4000
W - http://www.cheesetastes.com.au/

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Made in Africa

For ages and ages I was wanting to visit one of the numerous African restaurants popping up around Moorooka. Top of my list was Made in Africa, an Ethiopian restaurant/cafe.

The food which I ate in Ethiopia was some of the best in Africa. On our travels south through Egypt and Sudan we'd been warned that Ethiopia was going to be hard work, and that we weren't going to like it. Unfortunately that led us to have fairly low expectations for the country. Luckily that turned out to be completely wrong, and I found it to be one of the most interesting and amazing countries in the whole of Africa. The churches at Lalibela (see the photo) are some of the most memorable sights I've seen anywhere in the world - they were carved into rock in about the 12th century.

Food was a big part of the experience. We were lucky enough to eat at plenty of local cafes in the 3 weeks or so that we spent in Ethiopia. It's nice to go to a country where the concept of a tourist restaurant doesn't really exist. Almost every town (no matter how small or remote) had an amazing cake shop, that would also usually serve a range of fresh juices. The avocado "juice" was particularly popular with our travel group, because it was so thick you could spread it on your bread for lunch. Other food that I loved was ful (a thick paste made from mashed fava beans), tibs (tiny pieces of chopped meat often served with chilli) and their excellent coffee, which is served in a traditional ceremony, sometimes involving popcorn. We were also amazed to find excellent pizzas in Addis Ababa. Mussolini marched some troops into Ethiopia in 1936 - fortunately they surrendered during World War II, but there is still a lingering Italian influence in the country (including Ethiopian wine).

I'll spare you from my great memories of Ethiopia, other than to say I was really looking forward to our trip to Made in Africa.

Made in Africa is a fairly sparse looking cafe at the back of the Ranchhold Arcade on Beaudesert Road. Our group was the only occupant of the restaurant on the night of our visit, but we were greeted like old friends by the staff.

The dinner menu is pretty short. There are two appetizers and 11 mains. At least that makes it easy to choose what you'll be eating.

The starters are sambusa (pastry shells filled with lentils, onions, green peppers and herbs - $4.50) or meat sambusa (beef seasoned with spiced butter and mitmit, in a pastry roll - $5.50).

We skipped the starters, and went straight to the mains. As we had a big group, we adventurously ordered one of each of the meat main courses, together with a couple of vegetable dishes.

The main courses are served on a large platter covered with injera. Injera is a spongy bread, made from teff flour. To eat the main meals you tear off a piece of the injera, grab a bit of the food and pop it in your mouth. Cutlery is completely unnecessary. Because everyone is eating off one or two big trays, it's a really social way to eat. I really noticed that we all talked more about the food, just because we were all eating off the same huge platter.

Our mains were:

Tibes Wot - diced beef/lamb sauteed in herbed butter sauce, seasoned with onions, green pepper and rosemary ($12)

Keye Wot - beef simmered in a red pepper sauce seasoned with garlic & cardamom ($10)

Kifto - minced beef seasoned with herbed butter sauce and hot chilli ($12)

Gomen be Sega - sauteed beef, spinach, onions and peppers, spiced with peppercorns and cardamom ($12)

Gomen Wat - greens boiled with garlic and onions ($10)

Shiro Wot - split pea stew ($10)

Yakakilt Wat - green cabbage, carrot, potato, green pepper and onions sauteed in garlic, ginger & tomatoes ($10.50)

Lentil Stew ($9.50) - fairly self explanatory.

My favourite dishes were the kifto, which had a good chilli kick, and the gomen wot, which was a delicious, tasty serve of greens. Each of the mains were very distinctive, which meant we all kept grazing until there was nothing left (including injera).

Made in Africa is byo, so we happily drank a few bottles of wine and beer as the meal went along. There were no wine coolers for the table, but the staff will be happy to keep your drinks cool in their fridge.

Made in Africa is also sells Ethiopian food and coffee, if you'd like to keep the experience going at home.

I can't imagine that too many people in Brisbane have tried Ethiopian food, so if you're looking for something genuinely different for your next dinner, jump on the next bus to Moorooka and grab a table at Made in Africa. I've been back again since this visit, and enjoyed the food just as much the second time. My friends love it too, so it's never hard to round up a dinner party. Sure, the restaurant is fairly basic looking, but you're here for the food remember (James Street - take note).

Made in Africa is also extremely good value for money, so frequent visits won't damage your bank balance. Dinner for eight of us was about $90. Why bother with tasteless fast food, when you can have Ethiopian?

What does all this mean? Tasty, distinctive Ethiopian food, with genuinely friendly service.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Pretty basic
Value for Money - Top shelf
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Great

Made in Africa
Shop 8-9 Ranchold Arcade
197-201 Beaudesert Road
Moorooka 4105
P - 07 3848 6759
W - http://www.madeinafrica.com.au/

Made in Africa on Urbanspoon

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Pav Bar

Usually my work buddies and I leave it until the last minute on Friday before deciding to go somewhere for lunch. Unfortunately, by midday on Friday we can almost never get a table at our favourite spots, like Verve or the Exchange.

A month or so ago, after wandering our end of the CBD, being rejected by places that were full, we stumbled into the Pav Bar at the Stamford Plaza. We've gone back a couple of times since, because hardly anyone seems to go there for Friday lunch - which means food comes out in a snap. Plus it's about 200 metres walk from the office, so it's way too convenient.

The tables for the Pav Bar are spread around an open courtyard. At this time of the year, it's the perfect spot for lunch, because you can grab a table in the sun and try to forget it's winter.

For lunch you can order off either the BBQ or snack menu. The BBQ menu covers all kinds of grills, including Gippsland region rib eye ($26), wagyu sirloin ($42), MSA lamb cutlets with minted yoghurt ($25) and haloumi cheese and vegetables skewers with parsley pesto ($21). All of the grills are served with a baked potato ‘Parma’ and an individual side salad.

As you might have guessed, the snack menu is a bit less "grilled", with options like rice paper rolls ($17), thick cut fries with garlic aioli ($8.50) and a club sandwich with Parma ham and chicken ($18.50).

I was craving a steak, so I ordered the 220 gram black Angus sirloin ($23). I'd asked for it medium rare, and it was perfectly cooked. It was a lovely tender steak, and had been seasoned really well. I'm not normally the biggest fan of salt, but this steak had the perfect amount, that really lifted the flavour. The baked potato 'Parma' turned out to be topped with a few slices of good, thinly sliced Parma ham and a creamy sauce - delicious. The Parma ham picked up the slight salt seasoning from the steak. Simple, but so tasty. After I'd finished that, I polished off the generous (and fresh) side salad. If every Friday lunch was like this, I'd never get back to work.

My Friday lunch partner in crime ordered the Angus beef burger, which was served with melted cheese, onion confit, vine ripened tomato, lettuce, cucumber and thick cut fries ($18.50). It's served as a "deconstructed" burger, but you can easily put it back together if you want a challenge - good luck fitting all of that in your mouth at once. The burger and chips took up an entire dinner plate, so you won't be going hungry.

Service was friendly, and we hardly waited at all for the food to arrive. The only downside to the meal was my gin & tonic, which set me back $10. Unless I'm getting Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire, $10 is definitely on the steep side. Next time I'll stick to something a bit less pricey.

Otherwise, the Pav Bar is definitely worth a visit. It's good to sit outside in a relatively quiet environment, enjoying a well-priced, tasty steak for lunch.

What does all this mean? Good prices, good food and a lovely outside courtyard make this a great spot for your next CBD lunch.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Lovely, quiet, outside courtyard
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Ok selection, but avoid the pricey spirits
Vegetarian - Limited choice

The Pav Bar
Stamford Plaza Brisbane
Corner of Edward & Margaret Streets
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3221 1999
E - sales@spb.stamford.com.au
W - http://www.stamford.com.au/spb/page.asp?e_page=569758&roomNo=456391

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

d'Arenberg Wine Dinner

The next event on the radar at Wineaway is a d'Arenberg dinner on Friday 12 June 2009.

d'Arenberg is one of those Australian wineries that I really appreciate. I visited their beautiful cellar door in McLaren Vale a few years ago, but wasn't lucky enough to enjoy lunch on the verandah overlooking the vineyards. They have the most amazing range of wines, with original, quirky names like the Laughing Magpie shiraz, the Derelict Vineyard grenache, the Broken Fishplate sauvignon blanc and the Moneyspider roussanne (my favourite name).

In attendance on the night will be Nick James-Martin from d'Arenberg. Wines on tasting during the dinner will be:

2008 The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne
2008 The Last Ditch Viognier
2007 Lucky Lizard Chardonnay
2007 Footbolt Shiraz
2006 d'Arry's Original Shiraz Grenache
2006 High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Galvo Garage Cabernet blend
2006 Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 The Ironstone Pressings Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre
2006 The Dead Arm Shiraz
2008 The Noble Wrinkled Riesling

Tickets are $95, which you will need to purchase directly from Wineaway.

d'Arenberg Wine Dinner
Friday 12 June 2009, 6.45pm
Unit 3, 276 Abbotsford Road
Bowen Hills 4006
E - email@wineaway.com.au
W - http://www.wineaway.com.au/

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

food bling update

Sorry for my recent slackness on the posting front. Our first baby is not far away now, and all the pre-baby running around is taking up about 99% of my spare time - painting, looking for a new car, pre-natal classes etc. So as you can imagine, the remaining 1% doesn't go very far. At least I have a good excuse...

I'll do my best to get a few posts finished off over the long weekend. I'm off to dinner at the River House at Noosa on Saturday night, which I am really looking forward to. I've wanted to go for such a long time.

I've also been messing around on Twitter. If you feel inclined to read my crazy, random rantings you can find me @foodbling or here. I'm still getting the hang of it, but it's a great way of getting insights into some of the big players on the food and wine scene.

Finally, I hope everyone is enjoying MasterChef as much as I am. I'd have to say I think Chris is going to be right up there at the end - he seems to have both the temperament and the skills.