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

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.

Sunday Yum Cha at Spice Temple Melbourne – 16% better than on a weekday?

We were quite excited about the thought of Spice Temple’s new daily lunchtime Yum Cha menu, having dined there for dinner three times in Melbourne and twice in Sydney, so after a morning out and about in the city we decided to go check it out (check out our initial thoughts here and here).

After managing to score a table quite easily (at 12:30pm on a Sunday it was pretty quiet), we were quickly presented with the menus (there’s no trolleys here – it’s freshly cooked to order, just like Monday – Saturday lunch at David’s), and given some tips on how much food we should order to begin with (for 2 people, they recommended 8 dishes to start).

The Restaurant at Meadowood

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

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

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 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 🙂

Wine Went Everywhere at Bella Vedere

Recently, Ritsy and I got to cross another The Age Good Food Guide one hatted country restaurant off our to-do list, Bella Vedere. It’s located at Badgers Brook Winery in the Yarra Valley, and is part owned by Gary Cooper and Timothy Sawyer.

We arrived at 7:30pm on a Saturday night for an 8pm start to the 5 course degustation ($95 each) – the only dining option on a Friday and Saturday night, and were quickly seated in the beautiful, cosy dining room. Our table (whose white linen tablecloth I would ruin later in the night) was decorated with a beautiful flower arrangement in a vase.

EARL Canteen

A rather fortuitous circumstance meant that Ritsy and I were able to pop in to EARL Canteen for lunch one day last month, and after all I have heard about EARL since it’s grand opening a little over a year ago, I was very excited.

Now, it may seem odd for somebody to get excited about a inner-city cafe that pumps out little more than sandwiches all day long – and I would agree, if the sandwiches were of the usual ham / lettuce / tomato variety. What you get at EARL is, effectively, a well conceived “restaurant quality” (their words not mine) meal in between two slices of bread.

The fancy-fillings-inside-a-sandwich idea in itself is not new – Tom Colicchio, one of America’s most notable chef’s, established his ‘wichcraft chain in the USA way back in 2003 – but that doesn’t mean it’s not a welcome addition to the Melbourne lunching scene.

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio

The first post in our new section, Specialty Stores, where we aim to share our favourite and most interesting places to get your foodie fix in Melbourne and beyond, is fittingly dedicated to the masterstroke that is Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio!

It’s located on Chapel Street, South Yarra, next to the funky Olsen hotel, and across the road from the new Vogue shopping center / apartment complex. Among the fabulous looking cake displays, it also houses the semi-open kitchen where you can see Ian Burch and Darren Purchese (and their helpers) showing off their sweet-making techniques from the early hours of the morning through to the late hours of the evening.

I first visited B&P Sweet Studio back when it was a pop-up studio on Flinders Street in March this year, and was thoroughly impressed with just how beautiful and thoughtful the cakes and other sweet treats they were making looked. Given that both Ian Burch and Darren Purchese are veteran pastry chefs – Ian was most recently stationed at No 35 (incidentally, we hated the desserts we had there – sorry Ian!!), while Darren has recently been working at The Press Club – the quality is not surprising.