During November Melburnians have been eating, drinking and getting outdoors for the inaugural The Age Good Food Month and last week a few lucky Epicure readers were treated to a very special lunch as part of The Age’s Forever Curious campaign.
Forever Curious is all about encouraging readers to uncover the stories that are just waiting to be discovered. There have been four Forever Curious activations to date (such as ‘Just Graffiti’ and ‘Just a Tailor‘) and the reward for those who have been curious about what’s under the surface have been some money-can’t-buy prizes and unique one-off experiences.
The latest Forever Curious experience (and last for the year) was titled ‘Just a Chef’.
To set the scene, in the Epicure section of The Age on Tuesday 19 November a clue was inserted after a Karen Martini recipe (Karen is a Melbourne chef who’s a regular contributor to Fairfax publications) “If you’re curious at heart, head to Pino’s at Prahran Market this Saturday at 9:30am and look out for the Forever Curious grocer. Mention you’re an Age reader, and you could be in for a lunchtime treat with me. Only a few spots available though! – Karen-“
More information was provided on Thursday and Friday through The Age’s Facebook page and Twitter feed…and then I turned up on the bustling Saturday at Prahran Market where a chef in a ‘Forever Curious’ apron appeared to be selecting produce for his kitchen at Pino’s Fine Produce (Karen Martini’s preferred grocer for her work and home kitchen).
People who chatted to the chef about the seeded clues were rewarded with a signed copy of Karen Martini’s newest cookbook ‘Everyday’, which contains food that Karen cooks most – for herself and her family – and the recipes that are requested time and time again.
In addition, some lucky people who didn’t have plans for lunch that Saturday won a private dining experience with Karen Martini at her St Kilda restaurant, Mr Wolf. Just goes to show it pays to be ‘unplanned’ and spontaneous sometimes because you get to enjoy unexpected experiences!
The lunch was a 4 hour affair, a bountiful meal of the greatest hits from the Mr Wolf kitchen and free flowing wine to get the conversation started amongst a dozen strangers.
To start, some antipasti including brightly hued pickled vegetables, a ramekin of roasted peppers stuffed with goats cheese, cumin and crunchy walnuts, some classic crunchy calamari fritte with tartare and an artful pile of prosciutto flecked with mint, ricotta and smashed broad beans drizzled with balsamic and olive oil.
Next up was a selection of some of Mr Wolf’s famous pizzas, all with a crispy thin base and topped with classic Italian ingredients – no barbecue chicken horrors here!
That wasn’t even the main course – huge steaming plates of slow cooked Greek lamb shoulder arrived along with Karen’s take on ‘horta’ (Greek wild greens) tossed with barley, feta and herbs. That salad was one of my favourite dishes of the day.
And to finish, a refreshingly light lemon zabaglione with a zing of fresh blood orange and a shard of dehydrated citrus.
If that hasn’t made you jealous (or hungry) enough then watch this video of the ‘Just a Chef’, from the winners finding out their prize to a table full of happy strangers tucking into lunch.
Giveaway! Thanks to The Age’s Forever Curious campaign two people have the chance to win a $250 voucher to spend at Karen Martini’s restaurant, Mr Wolf and one person can win a copy of Karen Martini’s cookbook ‘Everyday’.
Welcome to Melbourne, Gelato Messina.
The famous Sydney gelateria serves gelato that’s been voted the best in Australia by the Good Food Guide and it has just set up its first interstate, and biggest, operation on the inner north’s ever-burgeoning eat street, Smith Street Fitzroy.
If the early crowds are anything to go by (especially during the summery weather we’ve been experiencing lately) they did well to occupy a large space in order to cater to the hungry hoards of ice cream eaters.
And if you thought you could resist, wait till you walk down Smith Street and spot that telltale green and orange cup being spooned clean every 5 metres. Once I was walking home minding my own business and a kid yelled at me from his pram ‘I’m going to eat ice-cream!’. It really is that exciting, for young and old alike.
The gelateria scoops out over 40 permanent flavours and a rotation of special limited edition flavours and all the gelato is made in-house. You can spot the chefs churning gelato through the glass inside the store that’s framed by a colourful mural showcasing the Fitzroy locale.
The chefs also make everything that goes in the ice cream – if it calls for apple pie then they’ll bake an apple pie before smashing it into gelato. The same with the chocolate brownies.
I tried the creamy PX, a creamy riff on a classic rum and raising ice cream, and some of the pistachio, one of the few nut gelato I’ve tasted which actually felt like ground nuts on my tongue. Apparently these pistachios come all the way from Italy! If you like nut-based gelato, the almost savoury notes to the pistachio makes it a spectacular flavour sensation.
And if you’re after an ice cream cake for your next gathering, look no further than the delightful domes being created at Gelato Messina. I particularly like the look of the Bombe Alaska ($55 and feeds 14 people!). Now, for an excuse to eat that giant mushroom ice cream cake…
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During Good Food Month the restaurants that make up the Southgate precinct are showcasing their signature dishes from 1-30 November. The dishes range from steak to scallops, from $20 to $35, so there’s something to suit everyone. You could even try a dish from one restaurant then move onto the next venue in a DIY progressive lunch or dinner!
It caters for a business crowd during the day and theatre-going crowd at night (their pre-theatre menu is particularly good value). The food demonstrates a strong Italian influence and hence their signature dish is a velvety scallop, prawn, cauliflower risotto topped with some crispy proscuitto ($30).
Moving onto Miyako, the Japanese restaurant’s signature dish was surprisingly not particularly Japanese given that their menu generally follows the straight-and-narrow route of Japanese cuisine.
The deboned and chargrilled spatchcock with creamy sweet potato mash ($33.50) was more akin to a dish you’d find in a Mod Oz restaurant, though it was finished with an intense teriyaki sauce as a nod to some Japanese influence. I found the rosemary oil too overpowering and quite odd combined with the soy-based teriyaki, so I would actually recommend asking for the dish without it.
You have until 30 November to enjoy a signature dish from Southgate’s participating restaurants at either lunch or dinner and if you order the signature dish during a weekday lunch Monday-Friday you can enter the draw to win a Southgate Dinner voucher for you and three friends. Bon appetit!
Miyako, UR2 Upper Level, Southgate Arts & Leisure Precinct, +61 3 9699 9201
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