Westie Women on Wheels – Free bike program of women of Melbourne’s west

I’m so excited to work with The Squeaky Wheel  to launch ‘Westie Women on Wheels‘, a FREE cycling skills program for  women who live or work in Melbourne’s west.

The program is for ‘interested but concerned’ women who have basic bike skills and who would like to gain the knowledge and confidence to ride for transport.

Delivered over 3 sessions, participants will receive bicycle skills training, road rule education and route planning advice. The final session will be a fun social ride, introducing you to the safest and most direct routes for amenities in your local area.

Places are limited to 22 participants and participants are strongly encouraged to attend all three sessions to get the maximum benefit.

  • Saturday 16 May, 2pm – 4pm
  • Saturday 23 May, 2pm – 4pm
  • Saturday 30 May, 2pm – 4.30pm

The first two sessions will meet at the Footscray Bike Shed, Mills Close, Footscray (next to Building K, Footscray Park Campus of Victoria University). BOOK HERE.

Westie Women on Wheels has been made possible with the support of the Maribyrnong Community Grants program.

HOT: The Artisan Bakery & Bar, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2015, Queensbridge Square, Southbank

melbourne food and wine festival

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (Saturday 28 February – Sunday 15 March) is kind of like my idealised version of Christmas (lots of eating without the present traumas) which makes the Artisan Bakery & Bar the ultimate Christmas Village, a place to celebrate some festival cheer.

melbourne food and wine festival

melbourne food and wine festival

melbourne food and wine festival

Every day until Sunday 15 March, from 7:30am to late, head down to Queensbridge Square on Southbank to sample delicious bread-based wares from Peter Rowland as well as a rotating calendar of local and international bakers producing their most famous baked goods, including Éric Kayser (Maison Kayser, Paris) and Justin Gellatly (co-founder of London’s Bread Ahead).

melbourne food and wine festival

I ‘accidentally’ inhaled one of Justin Gellatly ‘s famous doughnuts for breakfast and oh my god…I have to say it was one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. Spongy, fluffy and dripping with salted caramel cream with a shard of crumbling honeycomb on top.

melbourne food and wine festival

Apparently guest baker’s products have been selling out every day by 10am so I’ve diarised Éric Kayser‘s visit (Tuesday 10 March and Wednesday 11 March) in the hope that he’ll turn out some of his famous eclairs.

I was also invited by Peter Rowland sample some of Artisan Bakery & Bar’s mostly Victorian menu.

We started off with little pots of Irrewarra Sourdough’s granola, some fluffy and tart Victorian yoghurt and homemade fresh fruit compote.

melbourne food and wine festival

Then the carb-loading began, with wooden boards containing a selection of Irrewarra Sourdough and Woodfrog Bakery’s bread, Mount Zero olives, Milawa cheese, Mytleford butter and picles and condiments by Peter Rowland ($20 each).

melbourne food and wine festival

Then a selection of tartines ($14) – basically fancy open-toasted. Nothing better than melted cheese on bread! Our selection included double smoked leg ham, heirloom tomatoes, pickled red onions and chutney…

melbourne food and wine festival

…sauteed mushrooms and onion jam…

melbourne food and wine festival

….pulled beef, corn relish and pickled gherkins.

melbourne food and wine festival

To end was Tivoli Road Bakery’s out of this world fruit loaf – a light fruit-studded bread almost akin to Christmas cake – plus a selection of Milawa cheeses plus Tivoli Road’s famous salted caramel and lemon curd doughnuts.

melbourne food and wine festival
The Artisan Bakery & Bar is not just a place to eat and imbibe – there are workshop classes running onsite too, including free Little Foodies baking classes for children. Spaces for adult and kids classes are limited and bookings essential.

melbourne food and wine festival

The Artisan Bakery & Bar, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2015, Queensbridge Square, Southbank

7 days a week 7:30am-late until Sunday 15 March

Scottish Fling Festival at Immigration Museum – Giveaway!

Bernadette Rae Glenbrae-2

On Sunday 16 November the Immigration Museum will be holding a one-day Scottish Fling Festival to celebrate the launch of a new community exhibition exploring Scottish migration and culture in Victoria called Scots Wha Hae (Lowland Scots for ‘Scots Who Have’).

Visitors can enjoy pipe bands, traditional and contemporary folk music, the singers of the Scottish Gaelic Choir and watch highland dancing performances.

Little ones can ride a Shetland pony, try family tree craft activities, play mini golf and join in the fun of the Team Tartan group artwork. Adults can book into whisky tasting workshops exploring the renaissance in the Scottish whisky industry with Melbourne-based distillers Nippy Sweetie Whiskies (additional fee and bookings required).

There will  be traditional Scottish food with classic haggis, black pudding, square sausage, Scotch broth, potato scones, clootie dumplings, shortbread and oat cakes, washed down with Irn-Bru or speciality teas.

Scots profiled in Scots Wha Hae include former AC/DC front man Bon Scott, opera legend Dame Nellie Melba, and Sir Macpherson Robertson, who invented the Freddo Frog and Cherry Ripe and later funded an Australian Antarctic expedition. Scots Wha Hae will be on display until 31 May 2015.

Scottish Fling Festival, Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders Street, Melbourne

Sunday 16 November 2014 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Festival Day entry fee:

Adults $15 (includes museum and exhibition entry)

Children, Concession and MV Members FREE

Whisky Tasting Workshops additional fee: Adults $23, Concession $20, MV Members $20, MV Member Concession $17

Bookings 13 11 02, or online at museumvictoria.com.au

Giveaway! Thanks to the Immigration Museum I have 3 x double passes (two adults, kids are free) for the Scottish Fling Festival on Sunday 16 November.

To win just follow the instructions and the 3 winners will be randomly selected at midnight Monday 10 November and tickets posted to you.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


HOT: ‘Bring Your Bub’ Photography Tour of Footscray, Westside Discovery Tour

westside discovery tour culture mamas

Every 3 months Maribyrnong City Council hold free ‘Westside Discovery Tours’ where locals and visitors can discover the hidden secrets of Melbourne’s inner west. One of the sold out tours that I attended was the ‘Bring Your Bub’ Photography Tour of Footscray which was held in conjunction with Culture Mamas.

westside discovery tour culture mamas

Photographer Terry Murphy led 8 mums and bubs on a relaxed 1.5 hour baby and pram-friendly walk around Footscray CBD. I discovered unexpected pockets of the area and most importantly some basic techniques to get the best out of my camera.

westside discovery tour culture mamas

The tour started with a windswept 360 degree panorama of Footscray and its surrounds from the rooftop carpark of Footscray Market. Here we learnt about the aspects to consider when taking a picture – composition, lighting and colour.

As most of us were guilty of shooting in auto all the time Terry took us through how to use the aperture function instead. We learnt about using different aperture settings, how to apply the correct white balance setting depending on the light conditions (shady, sunny, cloudy etc), how do adjust our ISO and making sure that images were processed in large fine jpg.

With those basics in mind we practised shooting a panorama image and some portraits of mums and bubs with Footscray in the background.

westside discovery tour culture mamas

Next up was a stop in a graffitied laneway in Footscray CBD with a massive paste-up by local street artist Baby Guerilla and other vibrant artworks which made a colourful backdrop for more portraits.

westside discovery tour culture mamas

After a brief stroll through Little Saigon and Hopkins Street, the main street in Footscray CBD, we stopped to discuss the best tips for shooting portraits. Turns out you will get better proportions and less distortion if you step back and use a long zoom rather than getting in close and using a short zoom. And always shoot from above or eye level.

westside discovery tour culture mamas

It was a shame that we’d run out of time to visit Footscray Park to learn more about shooting scenery and landscapes but it’s likely that there will be more photography tours with Culture Mamas in future. To stay in the loop check out their website.

Other free Westside Discovery Tours are running this week, from an arts crawl, historical walks and food tours (sold out but get on the waiting list). Check out the Maribyrnong City Council website for more info and mark your diaries to book a spot on the September tours.

Read my review of a previous Westside Discovery Tour ‘Vietnam on a Plate’.

‘Bring Your Bub’ Photography Tour of Footscray, Westside Discovery Tours with Culture Mamas

HOT: Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

One of the downsides of writing a blog that’s heavily focused on food is that I often get hungry as I work on the computer.

Fortunately for this post I have had a stash of excellent chocolate to sustain me – thanks to a chocolate making class at Ganache, my favourite chocolatier in Melbourne.

For Good Food Month in November Ganache are holding some special events at their South Yarra chocolate lounge, including a special Chocolate High Tea and a chocolate class with a Christmas theme. I was invited to participate in the first session of the Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates class with master chocolatier and owner of Ganache, Arno Backes.

The class started off with a brief tour of Ganache‘s pastry and chocolate kitchens. As you can imagine the whole place smelled buttery and chocolatey and all round delicious. But all the staff (including Arno) are amazingly thin! Maybe if you work with chocolate and pastry all the time you’re less inclined to gorge yourself eating it (though Arno says he eats a KILO of chocolate a week – the key is to eat good quality product).

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We then perched up on steel work benches with a couverture hot chocolate in hand and watched and listened to Arno as he talked passionately about his work and chocolate. You’re not just being talked at for 2.5 hours though – the class was very hands-on and you will find yourself licking chocolate off your fingers and arms!

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We learnt about different methods of tempering chocolate, the process which binds the cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar in couverture back together after it has been heated so it can be worked with.

We then moved onto moulding different Christmas-themed chocolate. First up was a very tricky hollow Christmas tree. Aparently Arno wasn’t allowed to make one of these until six months into his apprenticeship and it’s because otherwise you’ll end up with something akin to my creation – a recognisable tree but with blobby and smudgy decorative elements instead of fine detailing.

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We then moved onto moulding a small solid Christmas tree with ‘snow’ speckled stacked branches and an assortment of cute snowmen filled with creamy ganache of different Christmassy flavours.

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Some other tricks we learnt on the day:

  • always polish your moulds before you use them to give your chocolates a high glossy shine and to make de-moulding easier. Coles cotton balls work best!;
  • buy solid plastic chocolate moulds as they will last longer. The flimsy plastic ones you can get normally last about three goes and silicon moulds are usually only good for jellies. Arno buys his chocolate moulds from a Belgium company called Chocolate World and a German company in Rosenheim (can’t remember name). Ganache has a small pantry section where you can buy moulds, chocolate and other chocolate making products used by Ganache‘s kitchen;
  • don’t touch the inside of the moulds as you could damage them. The Christmas tree moulds we used cost $120 each!
  • Ganache should be made a day before and then left to sit overnight on the bench with clingfilm right on top of the mixture so no condensation or skin forms over it. Do not put it in the fridge otherwise the ganache will separate and split;
  • When you melt chocolate you need to get it to 45 degrees to melt all the cocoa butter crystals; and
  • keep vanilla beans individually wrapped in the freezer and defrost for an hour on the bench before use. Freezing helps the oils and fats inside the vanilla pod ‘sleep’ so the pod doesn’t lose flavour over time.

After experiencing the time and effort required to make all the chocolates (and watching the professional kitchen team at work) it’s easy to understand why Ganache‘s chocolates look and taste so different to mass produced stuff and why it’s priced accordingly. You will generally get a fresher product at a small chocolatier – at Ganache the hazelnuts in their chocolate bars are roasted the day before and stock is replenished every 2 weeks. Compare this to a mass produced brand which may use nuts which are up to 2 years old then filled with sugars and oils to prevent spoilage on the shelf. If you’re not convinced about why you should buy chocolates from specialist chocolatiers and not supermarkets, this class will change your mind.

You can join the second and final session of the Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates on November 20. The class costs $100 and is a fun and educational couple of hours – plus you get to take all of your creations home! For more information click here.

Melbourne Good Food and Wine Show 2013 Giveaway!

Good food wine show

Australia’s largest consumer food and wine exhibition the Good Food and Wine Show is being held on the Queen’s Birthday Long weekend on 7-10 June at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. It is a huge event for food and wine lovers and this year will feature appearances in the Celebrity Theatre from Maggie Beer, Miguel Maestre, Tobie Puttock and Michelle Bridges.

Fisher & Paykel will be presenting YUM kitchen – the Good Food and Wine Show’s first hands-on cooking experience run by Australia’s most-loved cooking schools. Riedel brings to the show three fantastic wine class options in the Riedel Decanter Bar, Riedel Glass Tasting and Riedel Wine Theatre.

Take a shopping trolley, lots of cash, wear comfortable shoes and clothes and don’t drive or ride a bike – there’s beer and wine on offer!

Tickets are $33 general entry for adults, $25 for children up to 17 years and kids under 12 years are free.

Giveaway! Thanks to the Good Food and Wine Show I have 10 x double adult passes for general exhibition entry to give away. To win all you have to do is leave a comment before midday Friday 31 May. Good luck!

And the winners are comment number #11, #25, #8, #23, #16, #46, #87, #9, #14, #66. An email has been sent to you!

HOT: Melt Chocolate Festival preview, Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders St, Melbourne

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

If you want to learn about, eat and share chocolate then make sure you don’t miss Melt: Chocolate Festival on next Sunday 26 May 11am – 4pm at the Immigration Museum.

At Melt: Chocolate Festival, you will get to meet members of Victoria’s chocolate-loving Portuguese-speaking, Belgian, and Mexican communities to explore the role of chocolate in cuisine, culture and commerce. There will be exhibitions, talks about topics such as the origins of cacao in ancient Mexico to ethics and sustainability in local and global industries, performances from Mariachi bands and of course lots of chocolate food and drinks to buy and sample. You can even buy a Top Chocs showbag which includes chocolates from festival chocolatier.

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum
I was invited to visit a preview of the festival and to meet with people from these communities. The preview included samples of some of the food that you’ll find at the festival, such as the unmissable Mexican champurrado (thick hot chocolate made with milk, water, chocolate and cornflour) and warm cinnamon-crusted Mexican sweet bread. I went back for seconds :–)

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

Also try the chocolates and truffles made by Belgian chocolatier Stefaan Van Nunen using Callebaut chocolate and a whole variety of super-sweet Brazilian Brigadeiros (chocolate truffles) which were first made to support the political campaign of a brigadier in 1946. Now you can even eat them as a topping on cakes – apparently popular for kids’ birthday parties in Brazil.

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

During the festival you will have the chance to make make Brazilian Brigadeiros or decorate a Mexican chocolate skull like those which are used in the Day of the Dead celebrations. Here’s my attempt…

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

I suspect that Melt: Chocolate Festival will be a very popular event, especially in this cold wintery weather we’re having. So I highly recommend you purchase festival entry, workshop and chocolate show bag tickets in advance online to avoid queues and disappointment or book by phone on 13 11 02 or at the Immigration Museum daily from 10am – 5pm. Bon appetit!

Melt: Chocolate FestivalImmigration Museum, 400 Flinders St, Melbourne
Sunday 26 May 2013, 11am – 4pm
Adult $10, children and concession FREE (workshops and chocolate showbags extra)

Melbourne Museum Smartbar Giveaway

The Melbourne Museum is running Smartbar again, opening the museum up at night for an adults-only event.

The theme this time is Mind and Body and it promises to be an interesting and fun night. There will be psych experiments, lectures on life-drawing classes plus food and drink for purchase and Andrew McClelland DJing the night with a playlist featuring songs about or with the words Brain, Mind and Eyes!

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 concession/MV members. Get in quick as the event sold out fast last time.

Giveaway! Thanks the Melbourne Museum I have one double pass to giveaway to attend Smartbar on Thursday 26 July. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment and a winner will be drawn randomly on Friday 20 July. Good luck!

And the winner of the Underground Cinema double pass is Madeleine. I’ll be in touch soon!

HOT: Make your own jams and preserves workshop, Green Renters, Melbourne

I first found out about Melbourne-based not-for-profit organisation Green Renters because I was looking for double-sided door snakes for my freezing house.

Huh? You say. Door snakes?

You know, those long stuffed fabric lengths your granny used to use to fit under doors to keep warm air in and draughts out. The beauty of a double door snake is that it doesn’t need to be repositioned every time you open the door. And you know what? They are nigh impossible to find (unless you make your own, and crafty I am not).

Green Renters are a not-for-profit organisation providing sustainability advice specifically for those living in rental accommodation. Along with decking out my house in double door snakes they deliver workshops, host events and run projects all over Melbourne and surrounds.

I’m not actually a renter, one of the workshops I’ve been wanting to get to for a while is to learn to make your own jams and preserves. While I could borrow a book from the library or attend a pricey cooking class, Green Renters run a 2 hours session once every few months for $25, which includes reference materials and the delicious outcomes of the jam-making.

Our class started with Cate talking about the basics of preserving, including preparation, jar sterilisation, setting points and bottling. We then split into three groups to work on three recipes – a kiwi fruit jam, apple and rhubarb jam and tomato kasundi.

Jam-making is a pretty long process so our time passed with cups of tea, scones and relaxed chit-chat while the most gorgeous smells wafted around the room.

Here is my group’s proud handiwork – beautiful rosy jars of apple and rhubarb jam. I’m making scones this afternoon!

Check out other upcoming activities run by Green Renters on their homepage or join their mailing list.

HOT: Spud Heaven – Amazing Tasmanian Potatoes, LG Kitchen Cooking School, South Melbourne Market, Shop 90 Cecil St, South Melbourne

Who knew that there could be more to the humble spud than a white potato?

I love potatoes but I’m not knowledgeable about them – I just know that there are some potatoes which are better for roasting and some are better for mashing. So I was excited to receive an invitation from Georgie’s Harvest, a South Melbourne Market specialist potato, root vegetable and herb seller (her stall’s tagline is ‘All that’s good from the ground’), to attend a cooking class at the South Melbourne Market’s LG Cooking School to learn all about the potato.

Similar to the Electrolux Cooking School at Queen Victoria Market and the Essential Ingredient Cooking School, the South Melbourne Market’s LG Cooking School runs demonstration classes and hands-on Master Classes with Melbourne and Australia’s leading chefs. Compared to the other two cooking schools the South Melbourne Market cooking classes are held in a more intimate space, giving everyone a great view of the activities in the kitchen and with lots of interaction between participants and the teacher. And based on my experience with this class, you leave with a very, very full stomach.

This particular class was unique because it was run with chef Emma Mackay in conjunction with Georgie Dragwidge, owner of Georgie’s Harvest. While Emma prepped in the kitchen, Georgie gave a brief talk about the differences between a Dutch cream, Blue Zhar, Pink Eye, Viking, Nicola, Pink Fur Apple Potato, Desiree and the white potatoes you often find in the supermarket.

Basically, it’s all about flavour, colour and texture – there are different spuds for different purposes. For instance, Nicola potatoes are good all-rounders which are neither waxy or floury and are normally presented brushed to distinguish them from Dutch creams (which can sometimes be sold as Nicolas depending on supply). Dutch creams are similar in texture to Nicolas but are more yellow and sweeter in flavour. It’s often called the King or Queen of potatoes because it is so flavourful and versatile and is Georgie’s number 1 seller. Compare these potatoes to the Pink Fir Apple Potato, which are interchangeable with kiplers (the German variety of the same fingerling potato). It has a slight tinge of pink and is very waxy so it’s the kind of potato that you can boil dry and it won’t turn to mush.

Emma then started work at a cracking pace, demonstrating an ambitious number of recipes over two hours (and in fact, the class ran over time by an hour and we never really got to the skordalia recipe). Emma had two general tips about cooking potatoes 1. always boil potatoes whole with the skin on so they’re not waterlogged and you retain the flavour; and 2. as soon as finish prepping potatoes put them in cold water or the sugars will turn the potato brown. The longer you leave them in water the more they will lose flavour and starch, so she didn’t recommend peeling potatoes and leaving them to soak for hours on end.

We started off with a French-style seafood chowder using Pink Eye potatoes. This was a hearty, creamy soup with a base consisting of semi-mashed chunks of potato, fennel, white onions (apparently quite hard to find) and a variety of seafood. It was the perfect luxurious winter starter (or a meal in itself with lots of crusty bread) and the reason I eat in restaurants – so I don’t have to deal with all the pesky prepping myself!

For a more summery dish, Emma demonstrated her twist on the classic nicoise salad. A handful of Pink Fir Apple potatoes, boiled, peeled and confit, was presented with a colourful melange of blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, anchovy fillets, boiled eggs, black olives and a white balsamic and olive oil dressing.

Instead of including the tuna in the salad they were featured as a side of tuna patties using Dutch cream potatoes. A really delicious way to dress up canned tuna if you’re not so keen on eating it straight from the can.

My favourite dish of the night was the gnocchi with napoli sauce. While most of the class was spent watching Emma in the kitchen, there was a fun activity when we each learnt to make gnocchi using Blue Zhar and Viking potatoes. Given that ten different pairs of hands made the gnocchi it was really interesting to compare the difference in the end result when the dough had been overworked or underworked as well as the difference in flavours and textures due to the different varieties of potato (Blue Zhar gets my vote for better gnocchi).

The gnocchi was paired with the simplest Napoli sauce ever – a bottle of good quality sugo, two cloves of crushed garlic, brown sugar, fresh basil and grated parmesan. An easy and warming meal and a recipe I’m going to try to replicate at home.

By now we were all groaning about being too full but still managed to sneak in a couple of mouthfuls of lamb moussaka using sliced and blanched Nicola potatoes and a bechamel infused with bay leaf, clove and shallots. Again, a filling dish perfect for a cold winter’s night, though quite time consuming to prepare.

If all that food wasn’t enough, we each received a jar of Georgie’s grandmother’s skordalia to take home. This extremely garlicky concoction is made with Blue Zhar potatoes and Kolymvari Extra Virgin Olive Oil which Georgie considers the best olive oil you can get in Australia other than olive oil pressed from olives grown from your grandmother’s tree! The skordalia is perfect on toast.

I will definitely be returning to South Melbourne Market’s LG Cooking School – the class I attended is normally $85 and I think it’s great value for the enjoyment of the experience, the chefs tips and tricks, all the food you get to sample and then all the food you get to take home!

To find out more about potatoes and Georgie’s Harvest, check out this blog post.

Spud Heaven – Amazing Tasmanian Potatoes, LG Kitchen Cooking School, South Melbourne Market, Shop 90 Cecil St, South Melbourne