Sunday, April 30, 2006

Toast Eiffel for IMBB 25

I'll tell you where you can shove your stale bread... into that bowl of egg-mix, over there. Amazing how a bit of egg juice can bring a dry old crust back to life. In my case, yesterday's brioche. The dish? French Toast, of course. Pain Perdu, as the French would say. Or Freedom Toast, if you're a Republican.

I decided to make my Pain Perdu look a bit French. And so I'm calling it Toast Eiffel. Although this does not in any way imply an affiliation or relationship between my toast and any tower in Paris, nor between said toast and any member of the Eiffel family.

The recipe is my own mash-up of Larrouse Gastronomique and The Instant Cook. The love-child of Joël Robuchon and Donna Hay, if you like. Basically, it's pretty much a classic French Toast, only instead of starting with plain slices of stale bread, you make a chocolate sandwich from brioche, then dunk it in egg.

It's surprisingly easy to make. Slice up your brioche. Melt some dark chocolate. Spread it on. Make your sandwich. And if you feel like getting creative, trim it into some snazzy shape, like the Eiffel Tower, or maybe the Arc de Triomphe.

The egg mix is just an egg or two, a slurp of milk, some cinnamon, fine sugar and a dribble of vanilla essence. If you want to show off, you might pre-heat some milk with a vanilla bean the day before. But I'm lazy, so I used vanilla essence. Then you dunk your sandwich in the mix and slop it around to soak up the juices.

Finally, fry your soggy sandwiches in some butter, for a few minutes each side, till nicely golden brown, et voila... you're done. Serve with a dusting of whatever fine white powder happens to be lying around (I used a vanilla bean dusting powder)... and eat.

For Breakfast Blog regulars who are wondering what the hell I'm doing cooking, rather than reviewing, this is my first crack at Is My Blog Burning? IMBB is like Iron Chef for food bloggers. When I saw that had a stale bread theme, I couldn't resist.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Las Chicas Breakfast Burrito Rocks

My love affair with Las Chicas continues. Indeed, I challenge anyone not to love the breakfast burrito. Layer a generous serve of scrambled eggs on a bed of fresh rocket, and wrap it snugly in a soft tortilla. The scrambles and lightly wilted rocket spill out one end, with a couple of perfectly grilled bacon rashers draped over the top. Crowned with a splodge of tomato salsa and fresh guacamole, the flavour combination is brilliant. Breakfast innovation is a risky game. But this particular innovation rocks. Try it.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Epicure Buggers Up Breakfast

In what can best be described as an embarrassment, the Epicure team at The Age has done a feature on breakfast. This article does for breakfast what Tori Spelling does for acting. It does for breakfast what Plan 9 From Outer Space did for film. It's the George Lazenby of breakfast articles. It sucks. How they came up with a "Where to go" list that excludes Mart 130, Circa, Las Chicas, Replete, Mario's and The Bot is beyond me. If I didn't take my breakfast seriously, then I'd find this all very amusing. But the best meal of the day deserves better treatment. As the human headline would say... shame, shame, shame.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Grocery Bar, St Kilda

I am now convinced that good breakfast experiences are all about dishes, not venues. Ask not "where's a good place for breakfast?", but "who does the best benedict?" or "where are the best pancakes in town?" The answer will be very different. Take, for example, Grocery Bar, 135 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Tel +61 3 9537 1137. It's a very good spot for breakfast. But as I discovered on a previous visit to their East Melbourne store, their benedict is crap.

Today's experience at the St Kilda venue was much better. I had some excellent poached eggs on organic multigrain toast smeared with mushed avocado, and a very good side of bacon. No complaints at all. The Italcaffe coffee was good too.

Another popular option which seemed to pop up on every plate I saw was the home-mde baked beans, so I'm assuming they must be pretty good. And I liked the sound of the poached pear with marscapone on cinnamon fruit toast.

15/20 "mmm... mushed up avocado"


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Gas Eatery, South Melbourne

My dog eats his own vomit, and he seems to love it. So this morning, when my scrambled eggs arrived looking alot like a pile of vomit, I decided to tuck in and see how it tasted. To my surprise, it wasn't too bad. Scrambled eggs mixed through with fetta and stewed fresh tomato (this was no canned tomato). Today's special at Gas Eatery & Supplies, 253 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9690 0217.

gas corn pancake

The corn and chive pancake was probably a better choice, with some tasty bacon (done just right) and home-made chutney (a little bit too watery). As always, the corn-bacon combo worked well, although this version was very doughy, with a relatively low corn-count. If you're hungry, this baby will fill you up. It's big.

According to Campion and Curtis (authors of Melbourne's Foodie's Guide), Gas does "delectable" French toast (made with brioche and dusted with cinammon sugar) and a "delicious" bowl of yoghurt with stewed rhubarb. I'll take their word for it, although I didn't taste it myself.

However good the sweet stuff may be, the eggs are below par. Apart from the Middle Eastern eggs (served in a pan with stewed tomato and haloumi), a tortilla, and the specials (like my scrambled eggs), you can have your eggs poached, poached or poached. And by poached, they mean "poached" flying saucer style, in one of those little round poaching dishes. The cheat's way.

gas inside

Otherwise, the venue has a good feel, with mostly bar-level seating (nice comfy stools), and very good service. The drinks menu is also above average, with classics like Virgin/Bloody Mary (made with horseradish), and a peach Bellini made with Dal Zotto bubbles (they called it a "Blini" for some strange reason, but I don't think there's any pancake mix in this particular cocktail).

A final comment on price. Stick to the script (ie, standard menu packages) and it's pretty good value. Stray from the script (ie, eggs plus various extras) and they sting you. For example, Eggs on toast... $7.50. Eggs on toast plus bacon, beans and avocado... $17.50. I decided not to ping them for price, since you can avoid being ripped off by careful ordering. But it's a close call.

13/20 "poached, poached or over poached?"


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Proper British Kerfuffle

Never mind that it's owned by the yanks (Heinz). Nor that they bought it off the frogs (Danone). The spin doctors at HP foods are telling anyone who'll listen that HP sauce is a "Proper British" sauce. The brown sauce. And if you don't get all patriotic and slop it on your daily fry-up, then Britain is destined to become a nation of weaklings and losers... struggling by on a diet of muffins and soy frappucinos. Or even worse, croissants and lattes.
hp sauce
Personally, I reckon they should stick with the very groovy Paul Smith make-over. Very brown. Very stripy. Very cool.

But instead they're selling brown rubber wrist bands to "save the proper british cafe". Although whether the proper British caff needs saving is the subject of some debate.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Best Brunch in New York

According to New York Magazine, the best brunch in the big apple is to be had at Cafe 202, 75 Ninth Avenue, NY, Tel +1 646 638 1173. Their photo of the "Full English", with poached egg, bacon, pork sausage and roasted cherry tomatoes is making me hungry... and I just ate my dinner. My only concern is that Americans seem to think "first rate bacon" is something that shatters when you poke it with a fork.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Chocolate Eggs for Breakfast

What do you mean, don't eat too much chocolate, all the other kids hate him, chocolate's the only friend he's got.
Marjorie Dawes, Fat Fighters

This morning I can say with all honesty that I had one egg for breakfast. Never mind that it was a Haigh's Easter egg (Adelaide's contribution to world food). Never mind that it was 600 grams of pure chocolate. Never mind that you could fit a baby alien inside. Just one egg. That's all. No toast. Marjorie would be proud. Fat Fighters here I come.

easter egg
Pippin waits nervously for the baby alien to emerge

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Healesville Harvest, Healesville

I think I just discovered the best bacon Victoria has to offer. World class bacon. Just a short, one hour drive from Melbourne, at Healesville Harvest, the produce-store-slash-cafe attached to the Healesville Hotel, 256 Maroondah Highway, Healesville, Tel +61 3 5962 4002. No wonder Bracksy chose these guys to feature in his taxpayer-funded ad explaining that Victorian produce is "world class". They do world class bacon. And Bracksy does world class pork.

healesville benedict

The eggs benedict wasn't far off world class either. Top quality Jonathan's ham (the pork theme continues). Nice fresh free range eggs. Good sourdough toast. And excellent hollandaise. Actually, the menu said they used Béarnaise, not hollandaise, which is an acceptable substitution IMHO. About the only difference is the butter (clarified for hollandaise) and the vinegar (hollandaise contains lemon juice). Without the tell-tale tarragon or herbs, I struggle to tell them apart.

The food really is the star of breakfast at Harvest. Mum reckoned the corn fritters with smoked salmon were the best she's had. Not as corny as Replete or Mart 130, but a softer, more complex mix of flavours, with flecks of coriander and red capsicum.

Service, on the other hand, is not a strong point. You have to scavenge around for a table, with only 2 not-so-large communal tables protected from the weather, and the rest stuck out in the lane-way (with a roof and some heaters, but no walls). Then you queue up to order, and carry your own cutlery, water, etc, back to your seat. After that, service kicks in. They deliver the food to your table. And coffee, too. Genovese, of course.

With all this talk of pork, I leave you with these words from Senator Amanda Vanstone, proud owner of about 1,700 pigs:
I don't know much about pigs, but I like a ham at Christmas and I think there is nothing wrong with eggs and bacon
15/20 "oink oink"


Friday, April 14, 2006

Cafe Domain, South Yarra

One-armed food blogging is much harder than you'd think. Especially if the working arm is your left, and you happen to be right-handed. But ain't no broken elbow gonna come between me and a four day Easter weekend of eggs. Sling, schming. Outsource the chopping up. Pop a few pain killers. Blog on. And so I give you breakfast at Cafe Domain, 171 Domain Road, South Yarra, Tel +61 3 9866 3120.

Before chopping...

Pictured above is my serve of scrambled eggs with bacon and mushrooms on honey whole-wheat toast. Pictured below is the same plate of eggs, all chopped up (with a little 3rd party assistance) into little chunks that can be stabbed with a fork. The rest was easy. Spear a bit of bacon and some toast, sponge up a bit of relish, shovel into mouth, chew... scoop up some egg, shovel into mouth, chew... etc etc

After chopping...

The verdict? In a word, ordinary. The toast was a bit old and dry. There was no butter on it, and none on the side. The scrambled eggs weren't creamy. The bacon was overcooked and chewy. The mushrooms were OK. The tomato relish was very good.

We also tried the eggs benedict, which was pretty good (nice salmon). But the hollandaise wasn't tangy, and tasted too much like softened butter to me. Maybe I should have scraped some off to butter my toast?

Perhaps the best thing about Domain is its street-side seating, looking out across Domain Road to the greenery of Melbourne's Botanic Gardens. It's a nice spot for a coffee if you're out walking the dog. An expensive coffee mind you. $3.70 for a soy latte.

9/20 "ordinary"


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Palate, Prahran

With so much wank on your average modern menu it's nice to find a bit of wit. So with snappy titles like "Starvin Marvin" (the big breakfast) and "Halfa Marvin" (a half serve), you've gotta love the menu at Palate, 132 Greville Street, Prahran, Tel +61 3 9521 5540. But imagine my surprise when there, in the middle of the "Halfa Marvin", is what would appear to be a "Halfa Chubby". It's enough to put a bloke off his eggs.

I couldn't help but wonder how Trey Parker would feel about having a plate of eggs named after one of his creations. Rip-off or flattery? Is Palate passing itself off as an approved provider of South Park merchandise? What next? Kenny's Creamed Corn? Wendy's Testa-burger? Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls? Luckily, Trey's lawyers are too busy doing battle with Tom's lawyers to be worried by such trivialities right now.

But I digress.

Despite being a very slick venue, the food at Palate was a bit disappointing. The hash browns were fresh from the freezer. The sausage was a flashback to Qantas economy. The hollandaise was light-on. And the eggs, while fresh, were a bit under-poached.

On a positive note, the coffee was very good (and very strong), and service was fine.

13/20 "halfa marvin"


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Grocery Bar, East Melbourne

They called it Grocery Bar Benedict. It included ham and eggs. But that's where the similarities ended. And it wasn't an improvement on the original. I guess this is one menu Robin Wickens won't be ripping off any time soon. You can try the original at Grocery Bar, under the Tribeca Apartments, 412-442 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9419 4659.

To be fair, it was perfectly edible. But "edible" isn't really anything to brag about if you're running a cafe. The eggs were seriously underpoached, to the point where raw whites slithered across the plate. The ham was ungrilled and coated with melted cheese that was well on its way to unmelting. The muffins had been replaced with Turkish toast, which was OK but a bit chewy. And the hollandaise had been replaced with a side dish of basil mayonnaise, which is where the "benedict" nexus was well and truly broken.

Located under the Phillipe Starck branded apartments in the old CUB brewery, the venue has a good layout, including some nifty bar seating running along both sides of the exterior windows. Who knows if the "most celebrated designer in the world" (a Tribeca claim, not mine) had any hand in the cafe design, but there are no sheer white curtains or other Starckisms like you'll find at Sanderson, St Martins Lane or the Hudson, so I doubt it.

Despite the disappointing Benedict, I wouldn't necessarily say that Grocery Bar is a place to avoid. The coffee was very good, and some of the simple dishes sounded fine: seasoned mashed avocado on organic multigrain toast; BLAT pide with bacon, lettuce, avocado & tomato; home made baked beans on organic sourdough toast; muesli; porridge; muffins; croissants; and fruit salad.

12/20 "eggs mayonnaise"