My name is Amy Collins and I am a lover of food, wine, restaurants and bars and sharing these experiences with great company. I am a freelance food and drink writer and share my everyday foodie experiences here. I would love to hear from you, so don't be shy!
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.
Posted in Uncategorized on August 6, 2013
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?
Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2013
Tall Timber is far from my local. I am a northside girl through and through. BUT will travel for food. It would be wrong not to. When Tall Timber opened I watched the reviews flow in quickly. As the team opened Coin Laundry and Station Street Trading Co it made sense people were rushing there. What didn’t make sense were the very mixed reviews. Finding their feet perhaps?
I ventured south side in a short but luxurious period of time I had off between recent job changes. I felt a little like a lady who lunches, or a soccer mum in a smaller car. Anyway, I digress.
So there I was on a Thursday morning, ready for some breakfasting. The space is lovely, light and clean. Wooden furniture is coupled with white walls and cute details.
The menu is tight. It’s not overly adventurous, but it’s solid. Toast, avocado salsa on pumpkin loaf, chocolate stuffed brioche french toast, porridge, you get the gist.
On this particular morning I was leaning towards the lighter side of the menu so I opted for the Goji berry and pistachio house cereal blend with poached fruit and yoghurt ($9.50). It also came with your choice of full cream, skinny or soy milk.
It was surprising. It was better than I was hoping for. There were pistachios and almonds speckled through the cereal flakes and the goji berries added tartness. The fruit balanced it out with sweetness and overall it managed sweet and salty which is a winning combination any time of day.
I didn’t get to sample anything else on the menu, but I have my eye on the avocado salsa on pumpkin toast and feta for when I return. You know, the whole smashed avo addiction rearing its ugly head.
Tall Timber feels like the kind of place you want to be your local. It’s homely, the staff are lovely and the food is really accessible. I’d have been back many times since if it wasn’t so far away. And I will go back.
Posted in Uncategorized on July 7, 2013
Coffee. Beautiful coffee. It’s a daily necessity for most of us. At home, at a café, with friends, with a book, it can be enjoyed so many delicious ways.
After my coffee machine didn’t survive the move to my new house, I was very lucky to receive an invitation to the Melbourne Coffee Expo from Lavazza and Undertow Media. We all went along to a lesson on their A Modo Mio machines, taste some of the blends, munch on Movida Bakery donuts and explore the expo. After the show, we were very spoilt and all got to take one of the machines home with us.
This pocket sized, pod driven machine makes morning coffee very easy. Pick a pod, put it in, and press a button. In our house, we like the Divinamente blend – velvety with hints of chocolate, and the Magicamente blend – an aromatic and fragrant blend. It doesn’t hurt that they are the shiny blue and pink pods, but I promise we chose on blend not colour.
The person who invited me along to this event knows me well. She suggested coffee cocktails made at home once my new coffee machine arrived. What can I say? This idea was genius. So. In the spirit of bringing two of my favourite things together, coffee and cocktails, I present to you an easy recipe to make at home. Now an espresso martini would be the obvious choice, but I happened to have a brand new bottle of Tromba Blanco tequila in the house so I decided to make an Espresso Martini with a Mexican twist.
50ml Tromba Blanco Tequila
25ml or one shot of Lavazza espresso
1 tsp agave syrup
3 coffee beans, for garnish
Place the vodka, Kaluha, agave syrup and fresh coffee in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice and shake hard.
Strain into a martini glass and garnish with three coffee beans.
It’s as simple as that folks.
Thanks again to Lavazza and Undertow Media.
I don’t usually post recipes. You will probably know that by now. But every now and then I come across something that I think needs to be shared. This is where Lola Berry’s Chewy Almond Truffles come in. Now, I know you’re probably thinking one of two things: a) You know Lola Berry and might be skeptical that healthy food can taste great, or b) you’re thinking about chocolate ganache and cocoa. Well… yes these are healthy and no, they are not at all similar to the truffles that you find in chocolate shops, but I guarantee you they are delicious. And we know I’m not a health food freak, so I’m not just saying this to get you to eat your fruit and vegetables.
How did I come across these? Lola Berry is a pretty well known character in the health food scene in Melbourne so I checked out her website and in true form, picked the recipe that sounded the most like chocolate.
Here it is my friends (from Lola herself):
Chewy Almond Truffles
2 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 cup almond meal
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of organic goji berries
2 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil
2 table spoons Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk
1⁄2 cup raw cacao powder
1⁄4 cup raw cacao nibs
1/2 cup organic desiccated coconut
Place dates, almond meal, walnuts, coconut oil, almond milk, goji berries and cacao powder in a blender or food processor and whizz until well combined. The mixture should be a bit crumbly, but not too dry, so add another teaspoon of coconut oil if you need to.
Now stir in the cacao nibs, but don’t blend them because we want them to stay super-crunchy.
Roll into little balls and toss through the desiccated coconut. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to set (if you can hold off eating them for that long)!
Cut and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
TIP: Medjool dates are usually found in the refrigerated fruit and veggie section of supermarkets, but if you can’t find any, use regular dried dates, but you’ll need to soak them in water for 20 minutes so that they’re sticky enough.
Why are they so healthy you might ask? (I did too and here is what I found out):
Cacao – Raw cacoa is high in antioxidants, magnesium and bliss nutrients that are said to help keep you young, healthy and happy. (Bliss nutrients literally make you happy. How cute is that?)
Goji Berries – These red devils contain 18 amino acids including all the essential amino acids. They are high in protein, minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin C and carotenoids. Goji berries also contain polysaccharides which fortify the immune system and build strength. Chinese medicine also says that Goji berries increase the ‘chi’ or life force of those who eat them.
Walnuts – These ugly ducklings are known for their fatty acid profile and high omega 3 content. They’re also a great source of protein and dietary fibre.
Dates – Nature really nailed it on the head with dates. They are sweeter than sugar and help with digestion, lowering risk of heart disease, abdominal cancer and sexual disfunction. They are packed with fiber, potassium, and copper and even help kick a hangover. SOMEONE HAND ME A DATE.
Now, these Chewy Almond Truffles, packed with all the above, really are something else. They are rich, chocolaty, crunchy and more-ish. They satisfy any sweet tooth or mid afternoon hunger in a second and they really are good for you. Who knew healthy eating could be so fun?
Please excuse me while I enjoy another.
I want to share a little gem with you. Don’t tell too many people though, this space is small and intimate and would be ruined by hordes of hungry Melbournians. Its charm comes from its simple food, wholesome philosophy and gorgeous staff.
I would like to preface this write up with a disclaimer. These divine folk provide me with my morning coffee every day – excellent coffee might I add. Now while I didn’t know them when I first moved into the area (I still only know them in a caffeinated capacity), it is possible that I, like Stockholm syndrome sufferers have become emotionally attached to this place. How can you not feel deeply for the person who hands you that warm cup of coffee each morning? They have also come to know my name, my order and my style of clothing – the barista/owner told me recently she found a pair of pants I just must have. She had me at pants.
Anyway, I’m getting distracted. Thomson Café and Food Store, found well and truly off the beaten track in Northcote is a local goldmine. With seating room for about 15 inside and another 6 outside, it’s one of those places where you feel you’re visiting a friend’s house for brunch.
The kitchen is almost non-existent. They cook all of the food behind the counter in tiny pots and ovens. Due to this, the menu is small and considered. In the egg department they stick to the baked variety like the #3 of caramelised onion, spinach and marinated feta ($14) or the #4 with pork sausage, white beans, béchamel sauce and a cheesy top ($14). They cover other brunch cravings with items like sticky fruit and ginger loaf with honey ricotta ($9) and the homemade bircher muesli ($10). And how can I not mention the smashed avocado? It’s delicious. Two (or one depending on how hungry you are), pieces of sourdough topped with avocado, marinated feta and toasted seeds ($13 for two slices). Each time you’ll get a different combination of the three breads available: white, rye and multigrain sourdough. All spot on.
When it comes to lunch they have a handful of sandwiches like the rare roast beef or chicken with walnuts, apple and celery. Larger meals come in the form of quesadillas and a slow cooked special which might see roast lamb with roasted potatoes.
Sweets are constantly rotating including muffins of chocolate and raspberry or spiced apple, currant, carrot and walnut, or polenta cakes with rosewater syrup. Baked savouries include egg tarts of feta and spinach and one morning I even saw a baked beetroot and blue cheese quiche. If smoothies are your thing they’ve also got you covered with five available. The clean eating, green smoothie drinking friends out there will enjoy the vegan raw cacao, a mix of home made almond milk, coconut milk, raw cacao powder, dates and maple syrup ($9) or the banana and spinach finished with coconut milk ($7).
You can also take home marinated feta, sourdough, dukkahs, curry pastes, Loving Earth pastes and homemade meals like curry and lasagne. If I’m telling the truth, sometimes it’s the only place I visit on a lazy Sunday.
So, one by one, not all at once, come spend some time in Thomson. You’ll like it.
Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2013
Fonda has opened the doors to its new Windsor restaurant, this is exciting. What is more exciting is they have also opened a new bar Atico upstairs. I don’t even know where to start. The tacos? The Tequila? The cute little frames on the wall? How about I start by sharing some of the chat I had with co-owner Tim McDonald. That might be better.
In light of the new liquor license at Fonda, I asked Tim a few questions to get to the bottom of their tequila heavy drinks list.
Amy: How does the new Fonda differ from the original? Can we expect the same things?
Tim: In substance it doesn’t! It is the same core offering of our high quality, but reasonably priced food, in an environment where we hope everyone feels at home. However, our new space has the added element of having a stand-alone bar upstairs (Called ‘Atico’), we fits in with the vibrant bar and nightlife scene in Windsor.
Amy: What do you want Fonda to be for people?
Tim: We want Fonda to be a premium quality offering in a homely setting, for a reasonable price. This encapsulates the concept of a ‘Fonda’ in Mexico, where a restaurant is run out of a family home. Our aim is for the Fonda experience to be suitable for anything from a last minute mid-week feed, to a night out with friends or family on a special occasion.
Amy: What can people expect from the drinks list at Fonda Windsor?
Tim: From our house made Aguas Frescas (non-alcoholic) to our Tequila based cocktails and imported Mexican beers, our guests are encouraged to try new drinks they may have never experienced before. We don’t serve VB, we don’t serve bourbon and we don’t serve coca cola, but there are plenty of places in the area who do.
Amy: How did you go about creating your drinks list?
Tim: We had a collaborative process with Matt Clarebrough from Tequila Tromba (ex Mamasita) and Josh Hoff (ex Der Raum). That and quite a few tasting sessions!
Amy How do you think the drinks list works with the food menu?
Tim: The wine, beer, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks were carefully selected to compliment the food offering. For example, the ‘Agua Frescas’ a non-alcoholic drink, serves to cool the effects of a spicy dish.
Amy: What is your take on Tequila?
Tim: There is a yawning gulf between 100% Agave and Mixto Tequila. More and more Australian’s are beginning to understand and appreciate the difference.
Amy: What is your favourite thing to drink at Fonda? What is your go-to meal at Fonda?
Tim: Beef Burrito and a fish taco, washed down with a Pacifico or Lychee & Elderflower Frozen Margarita ( Tromba 100% Agave tequila, cloudy apple juice, elderflower extract, lychees).
The food at Fonda is spot on. The fish tacos have to be my favorite and this food is being taken upstairs to Atico with the new Fonda Catering.
When it comes to the drinks list at Atico, the small cocktail list is tequila heavy with guest appearances from local spirits The West Winds Gin and 666 Vodka. My drinks of choice would be the Tommy’s Margarita with Tromba Tequila or the Spanked Gin Smash with The West Winds Gin.
Working in South Melbourne, it’s easy to forget how lucky I am to have South Melbourne market a stone’s throw from the office. As you come to know the market, you realise there is a lot more to it than the rather famous dim sims – and don’t tell anyone, but I haven’t even tried said dim sim.
Let me tell you a little bit about a lunchtime trip to my favourite market. One of my must visit stops is Clement Coffee, the gorgeous little wooden stall, just big enough to order your coffee and run. They also serve up little sweet treats to take away.
When it comes to the food, the gozleme from Koy Restaurant is a pretty tasty lunchtime option. Grilled Turkish dough filled with cheese and spinach, I mean what’s wrong with that.
Among the plethora of other food stalls, Simply Spanish the Spanish pop up stall makes a mean paella out of beautiful large paella pans.
If a make your own adventure lunch takes your fancy, there are, like all markets, produce stalls for miles. Cheeses, meats, sweets, preserves, oils and the occasional clothes stall thrown in for good measure.
But to be honest, at the end of the day, it is the fresh produce that keeps me coming back every time. After a trip to the market, my favourite thing to do is go back to the office, toast up some Brasserie Bread (also in South Melbourne) Soy and Quinoa loaf and spread it thick with avocado and a squeeze of lemon juice. Sometimes simplicity really is best.
Thanks for joining me on my lunchtime trip to the market. Until next time.
When it comes to brunch, there is only one real question that ever needs to be answered. Salty or sweet? Little Big Sugar Salt (LBSS), the newest thing to hit Victoria Street in Abbotsford is making all of our lives easier when it comes to this all-important question. I give you their menu…
Broken down into salty or sweet and small or big (the name really does tell all), the menu is as easy to follow as a map. Choose your taste and decide how hungry you are. Why has no one thought of this before? Never fear, they have now.
When it comes to the coffee, LBSS is serving up fair-trade coffee from People’s Coffee in Wellington. It has a beautiful smooth finish and worked very nicely with soy milk.
On this particular morning I was feeling like something small and salty so I went for Health ‘the aspirational meal’ of avocado, tomato, green beans and leafy herbs with toast and Vegemite ($11).
If you haven’t had vegemite and avocado, you seriously need to rectify this (it has become my new obsession). LBSS’s avocado breakfast was off the charts. Salty from the vegemite, creamy from the avocado and the tomato and basil were great light touches to the dish.
My friend ordered the crumpets with lemon curd and mascarpone ($8)– small and sweet. She was a happy camper. The crumpets also come with peanut butter, blue cheese and bananas. This I want to try.
LBSS is cosy and the kind of place you want to visit. It feels a little like a house and a café coming together. Three spaces, one near the counter with window seating and two rooms out the back, the space only seats around 20 people. They are looking to introduce outdoor seating a little later in the game.
The crew behind this new café really are some of the nicest most passionate people in the business. If you get a chance to stay for a chat, you should. There is also a selfie station in the bathroom. Take a pic, put it on social media with the hashtags #lbsscafe and #selfiestation and get amongst it.