When one of my best friends suggests a Friday afternoon lunch with her and her mum, out in my old hood, I couldn’t really say no. BrownKorte’s, in Kangaroo Ground – on the way to the Yarra Valley – offers more than you might expect from a little country restaurant.
Gordon Brown and Martin De Korte are the men behind this one. Martin and Gorden have worked at the likes of Michelin starred Le Pont De la Tour and De Goede Reede and The Grand Hyatt in Melbourne. They have also both put their skills to great use as teaching chefs at the Eltham College Swipers Gully training restaurant and NMIT. They have now come together at Brownkorte’s to present beautiful food, both in taste and presentation. Brown is also a part time tattoo artist. What’s with chefs and tattoos?
On this particular lovely sunny Friday afternoon, the three of us managed to try nearly everything on the reduced lunchtime menu. We kicked things off with light and delicate entrees.
I went with the Chardonnay vine smoked free range tempura chicken, house made nori roll and lemongrass ginger dipping sauce. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the tempura was light and crisp. The sauce came with a little spoon. So cute.
The others ordered the chilli salt squid, green paw paw salad, Asian herbs and palm sugar lime dressing as well as the signature pork belly, apple, red radish, sweet and sour cabbage and crackling dust.
The squid was perfectly cooked and light while the pork belly was sticky and the apple was the perfect accompionment.
My main was the Goats cheese tart, shallots, vine ripened cherry tomatoes, frisee and fine herb salad with honey mustard dressing. A rich and creamy dish, perfectly portioned for a lunch time.
My friend – who has a serious thing for fish and chips – ordered the beer battered flathead tails, murray sea salt seasoned chips, homemade tartare sauce and lemon. She was pretty pleased with her choice.
Now dessert was a bit exciting. I had been craving lemon tart, my favourite dessert, for a while and I was very pleased to see a caramelized lemon tart with Chantilly cream and berry compote on the menu.
It was perfectly crisp on the top and tart in the centre, with buttery pastry. I was off in my own little world of lemon tart heaven.
The kaffir lime panna cotta, toasted coconut and pineapple and lychee salad was very well received.
As was the pink Moscato sorbet with minted strawberry salad.
I really enjoyed that they managed to pair gourmet dishes with approachable execution and presentation. It’s simplicity at it’s finest.
I also loved that the lunch menu was made up of lighter dishes with smaller portions, making three courses doable in the middle of the day without needed a nap. I’ll certainly be back to try the full dinner menu. And fingers crossed that lemon tart stays put.
Breakfast or brunch is my favourite meal of the day. Going out for brunch is one of my favourite things to do, but I am also big on home-made breakfasts.
Muesli, or muesli like creations are my go-to. I have been munching on Loving Earth Deluxe Buckinis with yogurt and fruit, but recently I was lucky enough to go to a Yousli breakfast. Yousli is a brand of muesli that focuses on healthy and tasty options that you can tailor to your own tastes in their online shop.
At this breakfast we tasted the pre-made range and created our own. I made a mix of organic baked oats, spelt, buckwheat grouts, activated buckinis, puffed amaranth, sunflower seeds, baked sesame seeds, chia seeds, activated buckinis, activated almonds, pecan, sour cherries, goji berries, dates and organic sun muscats. It is divine, if I do say so myself.
Another recent addition to my breakfast is co-yo. BUT I recently discovered five:am Yoghurt’s Coconut yoghurt. Now, this is made of real yoghurt, not coconuts, but it is so tasty (and much cheaper than co-yo), and goes perfectly with breakfast of any kind. five:am is an organic and all natural yoghurt brand that has some other seriously good flavours like dark caramel and coffee bean.
Muesli and yoghurt are a great breakfast, but fruit really completes it, in my opinion. So, I’ve been poaching pears – with a small amount of sugar – to finish my newfound favourite. Here is my favourite breakfast – at the moment that is.
2 cups of water
1 tbsp sugar – I used Heilala Vanilla sugar
1 Cinnamon stick – you can use ground cinnamon if that’s all you have
1 vanilla pod
five:am coconut yoghurt, cacao nibs and Yousli to serve.
Place the water, sugar and vanilla pod in a saucepan over medium heat.
Once the sugar has dissolved, place the peeled, cored and quartered pears in the saucepan. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Store pears in an airtight container with their poaching liquid.
To serve, layer your Yousli – or muesli – yoghurt, then poached pears. For one serve I usually go with half a cup of muesli, 100gms of yoghurt and half a poached pear. Top with cacao nibs for added texture and flavour.
This is not a complicated recipe at all, and I certainly didn’t invent it, but hey, it is pretty tasty.
I’d like to thank five:am for the yoghurt and Yousli for my very own Yousli.
The Grosvenor Hotel, from the outside, looks like a regular hotel, but on the inside it has so much more to offer. Interesting design, house made aged meats and seriously good pizza.
I went along on a Saturday morning to attend a pizza making class and what followed was a lot of fun and even more pizza.
With a 1:1 chef student ratio, things were looking good on the learning front. We mixed our dough, kneaded it, and left it to rise as we played with some ready-made portions of dough.
At a restaurant with it’s own pizza station, spoilt for choice is an understatement when it came to the toppings. We played around with traditional bases, gluten free bases and a mix of toppings while the resident pizza chef whipped us up a real treat. He created a pizza with a base topping made from herbs, spices and nuts. Sumac was the main attraction and it was divine. A middle eastern twist on pizza at it finest.
I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my pizza toppings, yet I also suffer from a problem when faced with too many options, I seem to lose the ability to choose properly and end up ruining a perfectly good pizza/salad etc. You get the idea.
On this morning however I managed to remain somewhat reserved. I topped my pizza with a tomato base, caramalised onions, buffalo mozzarella and ham on one side and salami on the other – the chefs insisted I needed to try both.
My vegetarian sister made a vegetable packed option.
At the end of the morning, they placed all the pizzas that had just been made, some charcuterie board items and a glass of wine on a very large table. Just for the two of us. While we barely made a dent, it was a lot of fun trying.
If that wasn’t enough, they dished up a nutella calzone for dessert. It would have been rude to say no. Word of advice, try this. It’s decedent and worth the sugar coma.
The Grosvenor Hotel run pizza making classes on the third Saturday of each month and the next class will be held on November 16 2013. If you like pizza and you can get along you should. It was great fun and I now have pizza dough in the freezer, awaiting some warmer weather so we can bust out the pizza oven and a cold beverage or two. Cheers to that.
When I hear the phrase Vietnamese food, I usually think of getting rather rowdy at Binh Minh on Victoria Street in Richmond. Last time I went there, I was even given a mouse hat by the staff, but that is a tale for another day. Now when I hear Vietnamese food, I want to go to Uncle in St Kilda. They really know how to do it. Only open for a few weeks, being eaten out of all their ingredients day in and day out, they are serving up fresh authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a beautiful setting.
Downstairs you’ll find a dark cocktail bar, and upstairs, a light, wood filled restaurant space that has yellow touches and stunning handmade crockery from Fork Ceramics.
We tried many things, most in mini form and it was fun.
The lime cured hapuka, coconut, pomegranate and chilli on betel leaf was fresh and light.
Another light and fresh dish was the free-range chicken slaw with fragrant herbs, bean shoots chilli and nuoc chum.
I also had my first Pho experience at Uncle. – I know, better late than never. It was a mini beef pho and was warming with a slight sweetness to it. I think I might be on the Pho bandwagon. Just like everyone else.
One of the heartier dishes circulating was the fried rice, filled with small sausage pieces that had a lovely sweet touch to them.
We ended with a tiny little sweet creation. It was banana, sorbet and coconut cream of some sort. Delicious and oh-so-cute.
I want to head back and order some of the other menu items like the sweet potato fries with black salt (maybe not so authentic), the Ha Noi fish banh mi with turmeric, dill and mayo and the soft shell crab with butter lettuce, avocado and herbs.
ps. Look at that crockery, stunning
Picture this, an old lady fussing about in her kitchen. She takes four teacups and places them in the oven. Not for too long. Just until they are hot. Too hot to touch. She takes them carefully out of the oven and places them on the table, next to the steaming hot pot of tea. In walk four of her sons. They take a chair at the kitchen table as their mother pours them a cup of tea. The cups are too hot to touch. They stay that way for a while. The boys linger, telling storing, sharing tales of the family business, tales of the winery. The woman is happy. Her plan to keep them there is working. The hotter the tea, the longer they stayed. A brilliant plan.
This woman is the mother of four of the Brown brothers who worked at Brown Brothers Winery and grandmother to Katherine Brown and Caroline Brown, the fourth generation of Browns and the next generation taking over the reigns of the vineyard.
Now picture this. Three young, beautiful and driven Brown daughters, sent off into the big bad world with a nonnegotiable task of four years working outside the family business before being allowed back. A beautiful clause they have there. It encourages hard work and avoids entitlement. And it has worked. The daughters ooze with appreciation of the business and a keenness to continue the legacy.
I was recently lucky enough to take a chair at a table with the Browns and members of Brown Brothers Winery. In a loft studio their chef from Miliwa cooked up a storm. We drank the 18 Eighty Nine range of wines, in perfect order – I was conveniently sitting next to Roland the CEO. He knows how things are meant to be done. The 18 Eighty Nine range is the dry crisp style of wines Brown Brothers are lesser known for. But, these wines are, in my opinion, better than the sweet ones people know them for.
The daughters shared stories while we sipped a fruity Chardonnay, a Shiraz made in Heathcote and a savoury Cabernet Sauvignon. We tasted John Dory escabeche with pickled beetroots, Nug Nug goat sausage rolls with freekeh tabbouleh and a collection of Milawa cheeses that would have converted any cheese hater in the room. Among many other things, I can assure you.
I walked away with more than respect for the stunning wines and delicate and well executed food. I walked away with a respect for the business, a respect for the people who run it and a respect for the way they view their customers. They grown 37 different varietals, they have five vineyards in Victoria and three in Tasmania and over 40 growers elsewhere across the country. But at the end of the day, they are passionate Browns. This new generation of Browns is going to be more like Brown Sisters and I can’t wait to see what they do with the business.
*Some of this was published on Concrete Playground as part of a wider article.
Sometimes you walk into a venue and your shoulders drop and you feel relaxed. This is exactly what happened to me when I walked into The Grain Store, tucked into the somewhat dodgy end of Flinders Lane. Now, to put my emotional state into context (for effect shall we say), I had just battled my way through hoards of young scantily clad semi drunk people leaving King Street at 9am on a Sunday morning. It was not a pretty sight, I can tell you that. So, a feeling of calm is even more commendable I would say.
As I arrived I was welcomed and quickly seated on the communal table to the front of the room. I did not realise that getting a seat was actually quite lucky. As I was leaving two hours later people were hip and shouldering for the last tables. And we should have booked, I overheard the waitress telling someone else. So, feeling quite lucky in retrospect.
I perused the menu as I drank my St Ali coffee. I was torn instantly. The menu, designed by chef Ingo Meissner, has a European brunch vibe happening and it’s enticing.
Options range from chilli and fennel sausage with winter vegetable mash, poached egg, Russian red kale, pear and cider relish ($17) to apple and rhubard ricotta pancakes with oat and honeycomb crumble ($16) to vegan cauliflower, quinoa and goji berry with pumpkin hummus, celeriac and nigella seends ($17) – I’m not even sure what that would look like.
Anywho, on this particular morning I was feeling breakfast not brunch, it was 9am after all so I went for the Grain Store toasted muesli parfait served with mandarin, chia seed yoghurt, quince jam and quinoa milk ($10).
This, my friends, is for the sweet tooths out there. The quince jam was thick and deadly sweet while the yoghurt and mandarin did offer nice tartness. I have to confess, I now add chia seeds to my yoghurt at all times.
My breakfast companion opted for the special of sweet brioche French toast with rhubarb, apple and caramel. It looked divine and she confirmed as much.
The space simply adds to the charm. The light wooden interior, with natural light, lovely design details and crates of apples made me feel a little like a Southern Belle. Yes this may prove I don’t have any idea of the history of design, but it worked just the same. As did the fact that they serve booze all times of the day, some even on tap.
Upon my next visit to The Grain Store I will no doubt try the chocolate chip cookies which are baked to order, served in fours with a glass of milk. I mean come on, does it get any better than that?
My tip is go. And make a booking apparently.
We learnt that Sophia Klumpp, the founder of AFRIpads left her life in Western society behind the day she decided that making clean and safe sanitary products for young girls in Africa was her calling. When she found out, on a holiday in Uganda, that young girls were missing 20% of their school year due to having their period, she knew she had to do something. What started as one room, a sewing machine and a lovely Ugandan woman, has now turned into a partnership with Moxie, to bring better health and education to young girls across Africa.
Moxie has joined with AFRIpads in an attempt to extend the reach of Sophia’s amazing work.
At this breakfast, we also learnt about their social media campaign #OneForTheGirls. Through this social media campaign, they hope to get women and men everywhere thinking about and sharing what they are grateful for everyday. To show just how lucky we all can be and how we can sometimes forget that.
I thought long and hard about what I wanted to post, what I was grateful for. I realized there was too much for one tweet, too much for one instagram photo. So today I bring you a list. Some small, some huge. These are the things I am grateful for today:
- My family
- My friends – some truly know me better than I know myself
- My housemates – they know I suck at recycling and they don’t mind
- Dry socks after walking in the rain
- My little heater that keeps my room warm
- My morning coffee
- Ankle boots
- Cacao nibs – damn they are tasty
- My job
- Living in a safe country
- Twitter – endless hours of entertainment
- Clean sanitary products
- Modern medicine
- Vanilla soymilk – try it in coffee and get back to me
- Prohibition – it did wonders for cocktails
- Ryan Gosling – ladies, am I right?
- My Mac
- My high school English teacher who will never let me forget that it’s ‘a lot’ not ‘alot’
- The guy at the petrol station who gave me 5 cents off my petrol the other day
- My car
- The fact that arranged marriages aren’t a thing in my life
- Puppies – they literally make everything better
- My local health food store
- Memes – Monday would be nothing without them
- My mum – for telling me that I could have anything I wanted in this world and believing it.
I could go on. And each day that list is going to be different. In a society where #firstworldproblems are often the only problems we encounter in a day, taking a step back to say thank you for the things we are blessed with, is a worth while way to spend five minutes.
What are you grateful for today?