Author Archives: Ritsy

Pirags!!!!!!

The finished product :)

Well, I finally managed to make my own Piragi!

I was somewhat deterred by my mum constantly telling me it was an ‘all day job’, but when I had a day free & was in the baking mood I thought I’d give it a whirl… turns out mum was drastically over exaggerating – it took far less time than what I found it took me to bake a batch of piparkukas only days before!

So – on with the process… my mum didn’t have a recipe & my aunt who has all of our Latvian recipe’s was overseas at the time I decided to bake so mum suggested that I use the one for ‘piroshki’ in my much treasured Margaret Fulton cookbook.

It looked pretty straight forward – and would have been a whole lot easier had I actually made sure I had all the ingredients before I started *read mad run to the store to get more eggs mid-way through combining the ingredients* – oops…

Benu, San Francisco

Course 10

When we decided to spend a couple of nights in San Francisco & Donny told me straight away that he wanted to eat at chef Corey Lee’s restaurant Benu, I didn’t object as his ability to pick brilliant restaurants from a crazy bank of retained information never ceases to amaze me! (On this occasion Donny had discovered Benu from an old tweet by Lee’s former boss Thomas Keller!)

We had a booking for a cold Winter Wednesday night so the minimalist garden area was looking extra sparse, but I’m sure it’s a beautiful area in the warmer months.

The Restaurant at Meadowood

Large table

During our stay in the Napa Valley we had the good fortune of dining at the stunning Restaurant at Meadowood. As it was dark and cold when we arrived, we didn’t get a chance to explore any of the vast expanse of the grounds, but we were reminded of the country-like feel of the Lake House in Daylesford when we were seated in the restaurant itself so I can imagine it would be lovely & tranquil.

We went to dinner with no intention of ordering any form of tasting menu as our stomachs (and wallet!) had undergone a fair workout over the last couple of days with visits to The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bottega, and countless wineries, but quickly found ourselves being persuaded otherwise as we relaxed into the evening with a pre-dinner cocktail and rather morish appetiser, ‘pillow on a pillow’ – a miniature puff of cheese, topped with a delicate flower, presented on a pillow. I’m sure this comes out before you’ve made a decision regarding the menu as the whimsy in this dish had our interest piqued, making the justification for the $195pp tasting menu (consisting of canapés, first bites, 8 courses and last bites) quite simple!

Bottega, Napa Valley

Pesce Crudo market fresh raw selection from the sea

Across the road from our accommodation in Yountville, we discovered Michael Chiarello’s restaurant Bottega. We’d seen Chef Chiarello compete in the first season of Top Chef Masters, so were naturally drawn to his restaurant on a night where we had no prior plans.

The large, rustic looking restaurant was pumping when we arrived and we’d already been clued up by a girl at one of the nearby wineries, who recommended her favourite dish to start of ‘polenta under glass’, so our appetites where whet for a good evening ahead!

As we’d brunched at Ad Hoc earlier that day (which you can read about here), we decided the sensible thing to do was to only order two courses, and enjoy an alcohol free evening. To my delight, the sparkling mineral water was free flowing so I enjoyed countless refills of my fancy copper cup by the highly attentive staff 🙂

Perfection Defined at The French Laundry

The French Laundry

As Donny recounted here, we were extremely lucky to secure a table at the French Laundry during our short stay in Yountville CA.

When you google The French Laundry, perfection is a word that is synonymous with the numerous reviews that appear, and after our experience at this restaurant I cannot think of a better word to describe the few hours we were lucky enough to have at 6640 Washington Street.

Not only is the service polished and the quality & presentation of each dish impeccable, but each minute detail in the appearance of the restaurant has been thought about – from the wooden pegs that adorn your beautifully pressed napkin, to the prints on the softly glowing lights.

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

A table full of langoustine!

A few months ago we were lucky enough to be staying at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas, which is home to the only US outpost for French master Pierre Gagnaire – Twist.

Typically when dining at a restaurant for the first time we opt for the degustation or equivalent to maximise our dining experience, but given we had two weeks of extreme eating ahead of us we thought that we should start our holiday being slightly sensible. OK – who am I kidding… our decision not to go the tasting menu in this instance was due to the fact that you couldn’t get the much talked about langoustine 5 ways!

It wasn’t long after we were seated that our table was adorned with all manner of breads, spreads and appetisers, including a refreshing apple sorbet palate cleanser (out of shot) which we were able to enjoy while sipping our cucumber champagne cocktails. It was definitely a great way to ease into the evening 🙂

8 Courses at Attica

Potato cooked in the earth it was grown

As previously mentioned, it was Donny’s 30th Birthday towards the start of January, so what better way to celebrate than with the 8 course tasting menu with matched wines at Ben Shewry’s Attica!

We were lucky enough to decide we wanted to eat there the same week the restaurant started accepting bookings for the New Year (although as it turned out, there were a couple of empty tables on the Friday night that we were there…) and were quite excited to see how the standard menu compared to the Tuesday night Chefs table.

I spent some of the afternoon worrying that something had gone wrong with our booking as I never received a confirmation call like you do from most restaurants, but figured as they took my credit card details at the time of booking everything should be ok – and ok it was – phew!

Donny & Ritsy Cook Christmas Lunch

My first Christmas Pudding

Traditionally Christmas lunch is spent with my dad’s family, but this year lunch was relegated to a 7:30am breakfast (which we couldn’t bring ourselves to commit to) so we decided to cook Christmas lunch for a party of 3!

Our Christmas morning started with what has become a tradition for us – Waffles with fresh berries and vanilla ice cream – yum!

After breakfast we began to work on lunch. We chose a pretty simple menu to make things easy on ourselves…

My dad loves duck, and there was a delicious looking recipe in the December issue of Gourmet Traveller for Roast duck with cherries and roast kipfler potatoes so that was main course sorted. As the weather was going to be warm, I was toying with the idea of a family favourite – shredded duck salad with jellyfish. Donny was slightly apprehensive, wondering whether a duck duo would be a bit too much, but the $7 ducks we stumbled upon sealed the deal. What a duck feast we were going to have!

Leeuwin Estate Dinner at Maze Grill

Back in August (yep…this is Ritsy writing!) we had the great pleasure of attending the Leeuwin Estate Art Series dinner at Maze Grill in Melbourne.

This was our first time at Maze Grill and after reading some mixed reviews we were definitely going more for the wine than the food. I’m pleased to report though, in the main the food was quite enjoyable – so much so that at one point I got sprung by our waiter scraping the last remains of a dish with the comment “scrapey scrapey” – gold…

We started the evening in the bar / holding area with a glass of the beautiful 2009 Art Series Riesling, which was generously topped up until we were walked through the restaurant to the Grill where we were dining.

A Leisurely Sunday Lunch at Loam

SONY DSC

Yesterday Donny & I had the meal of the year during a beautiful lunch at Loam.

We left home early and built up a sizable appetite visiting a couple of beautiful wineries along the Bellarine Peninsula, so when presented with the list of possible ingredients for the month of November (in place of a conventional menu) it went without saying that we would opt for the maximum  number of courses available (7) with matched wines for $160pp.

Our waitress advised that this could take quite some time, but we were in no hurry, content to enjoy the landscape of olive groves and various wildlife out the large bay windows.

The meal began with a palate cleanser of radish and smoked butter and was followed by our first course of Dutch carrot, brazil nut, pine needle yoghurt, herbs matched with the local Oakdene ‘Jessica’ Sauvignon Blanc.

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