Friday, March 8, 2013

A food blogger's day out in Melbourne

Melbourne is a gorgeous city. I'm not quite sure why it's taken me over twenty years to get back there after my first visit, but after such a long break I needed to undertake some research to find out where a visitor should eat. Being a lazy researcher, I put out an SOS on twitter which was answered by Melbourne locals and fellow foodies, Winston and Amy. Handy!

My day started at 8am in the foodie heaven of the Queen Victoria Markets. I had barely walked through the entrance when I fell head over heels in love. Stall after stall of juicy fresh fruit and vegetables in the outside covered area of the markets and then cheese, meats, seafood, bread, coffee and sweet treats inside. Despite the early hour, I couldn't help sampling some macarons from the Queen Victoria Market Cake Shop and chocolates from Koko Black. The chocolates were so good that I bought some extra to take back to the hotel for boy. Good wife! *  

* Chocolates may have been consumed before boy managed to find them. Bad wife!

After reading Miss Piggy's post about the Queen Vic Markets, I knew my next stop needed to be the doughnut van, which was found, ironically, right next to the 'organic produce' area. Soothing my conscience by buying some spelt flour for future healthy baking endeavours, I then bought some deliciously light and fluffy doughnuts. Sadly, the jam filling was a long way from filling the doughnut, but the dough itself was fabulous.

The exercise of walking around the markets soon called for lunch, and this time with boy in tow I headed towards Big Mama, a Korean/Japanese restaurant suggested by The Hungry Excavator. We knew we were off the tourist trail when we entered the eatery. Larger than a hole-in-the-wall, but with simple furnishings, the super-close tables communicate that you're there to eat rather than linger.

Agedashi tofu
Chilli chicken karaage
Beef bento box (Lunch Special) ~$10-11

The tofu and chilli chicken had come recommended, and while we assumed we were ordering too much food, we also got a bento box as it was ridiculously cheap. The agedashi tofu came out first, and was worthy of being devoured. Slightly more 'Western' in flavour than other agedashi tofu dishes I've had, the kewpie mayonnaise and sauce on top (rather than the expected broth) were not unwelcome, and the bonito flakes (flakes of dried, smoked fish) always add a bit of drama as they curl and wither. Boy and I both agreed we were happy campers.

The beef bento box, however, was another matter. I should have known that something that cheap would use cheap cuts of beef. While the flavour of the beef was good, the meat snob in me grumpily made my way through the stringy beef while lamenting that I didn't choose chicken. The extra appetisers in the box also left me a little disappointed. I don't know enough about Japanese food to know whether these morsels were meant to be served hot or cold, but I assume that half-way between the two isn't the ideal serving temperature.

Once we returned to the safety of Winston's recommendations, and the chilli chicken karaage arrived, all was forgiven, as the juicy chicken with great fried crunch was perfect. Perfect! I'd happily return for more of that chicken, as well as another round of tofu. Rather than pick whatever I fancy from the menu, however, I'll re-read Winston's post and go for tried and true favourites.
Big Mama on Urbanspoon

After lunch and an afternoon nap {food coma} there was dinner to be had with several blogging foodies at Trunk Diner.

Trunk consists of three separate areas; the restaurant, bar, and the diner (where we were). The restaurant seems like the older sibling to the other two areas, with a little more restraint and calm, compared to the super-popular (and packed) bar and diner. I had to remind myself that I used to enjoy liveliness at places where I couldn't hear my dining companions with ease. I'm getting old!

Steak sandwich
Buttermilk fried chicken wings with potato salad
Chilli cheese fries
Chilli cheese hotdog
Wagyu burger

The food offerings in the diner left me a little confused, with some being traditional diner fare, with diner-esq presentation, while others were obviously more modern and upmarket. The hotdog and chilli cheese fries fell into the former category, with neither worthy of a photograph due to their 'messy' appearance, but it was these that were some of my favourite dishes. My steak sandwich was another favourite. Served with delicate fries, this was my favourite dish of the night. Hurrah - mine! All mine. The steak, that came cooked medium-well, was tasty and smothered in melted cheese, and the added hit of American mustard kept me coming back for more.

Trunk Diner on Urbanspoon The buttermilk fried chicken wings and potato salad (above, right) didn't have me as excited. While more refined in appearance, the Southern-style batter and chicken I was hoping for was not apparent, and while the wings were cooked perfectly, I didn't warm to them or the side salad.

Lastly, the Wagyu burger, looked amazing. smaller than a regular burger, but larger than a slider, this burger can be cooked to order due to the freshly ground nature of the Wagyu mince. Melbourne's food snob did mention that her patty was overcooked, but I'd be interested to go back and try one of these burgers for myself.

Despite being full, when the ever-svelte Ashley suggested gelato I couldn't resist. We, along with a crowd of others queued at Spring Street Grocer to get our dessert gelato hit. Ordering the donatello flavour (coconut, pistachio and hazelnut) was the perfect end to a foodie day.

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