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Friday, September 26, 2008

Melb-Syd Coastal Drive : Halfway Stopovers

Driving to Sydney is a worthwhile experience especially through the coastal routes, where the blue seas meet the skies, making the road a moving movie of calm waters and ultimate eye candy.





Some of the stopovers midway to Sydney from Melbourne include Eden and Pambula.

EDEN

Many years ago, Eden was a whale-hunting town. Now the whale hunting has turned into whale watching, and as a quiet fishing town the scene and lifestyle caters to a rather unhurried, relaxed, day to day existence.

The whale history has been captured in detail at the Eden Killer Whale Museum, together with some snapshots of Aussie history through a narration of Ned Kelly's story. A modest entrance fee of $7.50 gives you access to a lot of whaling information, including the partnership of man and killer whales during the times when hunting was at its peak.

Stroll around or have some fresh grilled flathead with chips (a gourmet fish and chips style!) and a cup of hot coffee by the mooring docks and watch the day pass by.








PAMBULA


Pambula beach and its 6km stretch of white sand is definitely worth stopping by. There is a Discovery Holiday Park's Pambula Beach Resort which caters to trailer or camper vans and the like, and is best for families wanting a little time away from home. Kangaroos abound the area, mingling with children and unabashedly scratching themselves along the pathways.

Melb-Syd Coastal Drive : Stopover at Phillip Island



Philip Island is a 90-minute drive from the city of Melbourne that boasts of a lot of attractions that would cater to all ages.

One of the interesting areas would be The Nobbies, where one can take a stroll by the boardwalk with a seemingly endless view. The Nobbies are actually the two rock formations (above photo, left). A bit offshore is the Seal Rocks, home to Australia's largest colony of seals.

On a clear sunny day, feast your eyes to the deep clear blue of the ocean and watch as the waves crash into the rocky formations.

Read more about Philip Island's other attractions in their official site here.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Yarra at Night


a slightly blurred photo of Yarra River at night as seen from Southgate.
obviously a tripod is in order!



View from the bridge near Flinders Station.

Fratellino Pizzeria



One of the busiest Italian restaurants around Prahran is Fratellino Pizzeria. Perhaps a good reason is because you'd get your money's worth on every order you place.

The menu is simple and straightforward, but may leave you contemplating due to the enticing list of flavors that you can dabble on. The selection includes nice and crunchy thin crust pizza with a good variety of flavors, and comes fresh out of the wood fire oven. The process is simple - basic pizza base is stretched and tossed around before your very eyes then laid out on the wooden slab, ready for the chosen toppings based on your tummy's desire. Then it goes straight into the oven and a couple of minutes later, a bubbled crust with slightly burnt bits on the edges gets ready to be delivered onto your table. If you opt for pasta you can choose from spaghetti, ravioli, fettucine or gnocchi. Other mains include fish steak, or parma.

Drinks are found by the blackboard mounted on the wall, and a decent selection of red and white house wines are available. BYO if you want, just toss in $5 corkage.

As the place is really extremely busy considering the take-away or pick-up orders as well, there are times when one might feel a bit left out on attention from the staff...but once you get yours, its is an assurance of good food.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TAKEN

It's a plot that's been played out many times. Child is kidnapped, but....the bad guys doing the kidnapping didn't count on pissing off the wrong father. Dad, with secret spy past, mercilessly hunts the bad guys down, rescues child and destroys all in his path in the process. Oops, I just gave it all away didn't I, well really...would you have guessed anything different?

To be fair, while it does stick to the genre, this movie ticks along nicely and before you know it your popcorn stash has been depleted and you've had a rather entertaining 92 minutes. It's a pretty action packed affair with a good splattering of car chases, foot chases, fight and shoot 'em up scenes and an almost obligatory "how the hell will he get out of this pickle" scene.

Reviews questioning Liam Neesons suitability for main role based on age did seem a little unfair; this certainly wasn't the last Indiana Jones movie. A couple of the fight scenes did appear a little laboured but apart from that it was a pretty decent performance by the big fella.

You'll certainly see better movies this year but not a bad addition to the leave your brain at the door list.

St. Kilda Pier


the full moon peaking through thick nimbus

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sunset's sunlight



captured at Big Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

ChocoKahlua Cake with Blueberry Marble





This recipe is actually an experiment, inspired by brownies.

The main chocolate cake is composed of :
around 3 oz of dark chocolate melted with 1/3 cup butter.
Three eggs are whisked with 1/2 cup white sugar until light, and 1/4 cup of Kahlua is added.
The chocolate mixture is mixed into the egg mixture
then 1 1/2 cups of sifted flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and a pinch of salt are mixed in until combined.
1/2 cup of small dark chocolate buttons are folded in.
Pour into well greased pan then swirl in blueberry sauce at the top (sauce is made by gently simmering blueberries with sugar and a little bit of water)

Bake for around 25 minutes in a pre-heated 180C oven, or until springy to touch.

*

Room for improvement is the manner of swirling in the sauce!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hovering over Hobart



as seen from the window seat

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bridie O'Reilly's - Chapel Street

How exactly do you rate theme pubs? In this case an Irish one.

Authenticity?
Using the slogan "An Irish tradition" to extol parma and pizza nights and this particularly wonderful picture (inset), you be the judge ;)

Venue/Decor?
A large expanse both upstairs and down with a mix of standing and "cosy" accommodation allied to a rather large front beer garden/terrace all sporting more novelty signs of the "old country" than you can shake a stick at give more than a hint to the theme, making it a formidable proposition.

Offerings?
Food: the usual full Irish Breakfast (curiously missing white pudding?) and Beef and Guinness Pie complete the traditional fare (yes two :))...pizza, pasta, parma and fish and chips all the way after that.
Beverages: Standard Guinness and Kilkenny allied to a mix of local and a few other imported beers. Noteworthy mentions are Bulmers on tap and in pint bottles and Monteith's Golden Lager on tap (a favoured NZ brewhouse) not always seen in these parts.

Crowd?

Twentysomethings strutting their stuff with gusto and the obligatory backpacker brigade trying out their accent on the local talent.

Overall, pretty raucous on the weekends but not too bad on a weeknight for those seeking a quiet scoop or those in need of a not so authentic fix of the black stuff.

The Portland Hotel


An older building renovated for today is probably the best way to describe The Portland Hotel or James Squires as it shall be known henceforth! It's a two sided affair, on one side the Portland Lane Cafe offering the standard casual fare you come to expect in the brew/cafe hybrids around Melbourne and the other, and let's face it more important, side the James Squire Brewhouse.


The Brewhouse is more of a modern microbrewery that lacks a little of the charm of the more traditional older versions but more than makes up for with the main ingredient....James Squires on tap! All the Squire favourites streaming from the golden fountains that rise majestically from the nectar giving Pantheon....err, I mean bar taps! While many purveyors of James Squire on tap tend to disappoint by stocking one or two this is the one place that has them all, from the porter to the golden ale and all in between. A delight for fans of this particular tipple...well worth a visit.

Pellegrini’s

A little step back in time. Perhaps the best way to describe a visit to Pellegrini’s café – a Melbourne institution if you believe what you read.


Well they don’t lie. Stepping through the door is tantamount to being transported to a 1950’s Roman Café experience, complete with the burly if not surly staff, the rich aroma of homemade pasta sauce, freshly made espresso and fleeting glimpses of "Momma" as she trundles back and forth between the kitchen and serving area. What the staff lack in friendliness is certainly made up for in prompt service with orders being dispatched across the long wooden bar at break neck speed. High-stooled diners devouring direct from the bar itself or from opposing counter top which runs the length of a mirrored wall.

As for the food, it tastes as close to "Mommas" as this non-Italian could ever imagine. Large portions of perfectly cooked pasta accompanied by some generously pre-buttered bread to mop up the left over sauce....it doesn't come much better than that. Well actually it does....a signature smooth coffee to finish it off and a satisfied patron is ready to face the rest of the day.
If it's fine dining with service to match you’re after then this isn't the place for you. If it's unpretentious hearty home cooked fare served among the hustle and bustle of a busy cafe then you won't be disappointed.

A new addition to the fave's list.

Great Barrier Reef Underwater Photos

These are some great underwater shots taken by the dive team at the Outer Barrier Reef - Indepth Video - same folks who took our photos during the Cairns trip.

Clouds Looming



seen during the floating yum cha,
somewhere in Williamstown

Creating the Healthy Cookie

I've been on a look out for cookie or health bar recipes and there are quite a few out there. It's a great mixture of oats, nuts and dried fruit - depends on what you want in it. But the main idea is to have a healthy snack, great for breakfast, or even trailfood, or just when the nibblies attack during the day and you want something sweet to chew on!

I found one that had minimum ingredients but maximum taste. No flour (not even wholewheat flour), no eggs - but did use some oil, to bind it all together. With a little more fine tuning to this recipe, I think it can be an ideal healthy treat.

It called for bananas, oats, dates or sultanas and oil - but I threw in some pecans for some crunch. No added sugar! And the result was an amazingly sweet concoction of good stuff, with the sweetness mainly coming from the bananas and sultanas.

I'm still thinking of a name (health cookie?) and further variations (like adding muesli perhaps?)

Watch out for this tasty experiment!

Open Water Diving

There is a quote often referred to by mountain climbers or hikers, which goes...

"Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know." Rene Daumal

For divers though, it comes from a completely different angle of course!

"Between the air and the water a steel wave quivers. What people call the surface is also a ceiling. A looking glass above, watered silk below. Nothing is torn on the way through. Only a few bubbles mark the diver's channel and behind him the frontier soon closes. But once the threshold is crossed you can turn back slowly and look up: that dazzling screen is the border between two worlds, as clear to the one as to the other. Behind the looking glass the sky is made of water." - Philippe Diole. The Undersea Adventure. 1951

There is so much pleasure that can be derived from diving, and there is no better way to start than to learn the skills needed to survive underwater. Theoretically it revolves around a very simple strategy - just breath continuously through your apparatus. The rest of what appears to be quite basic ideas are very essential, because like everything else in life, sometimes you'll never know what will happen and that apparatus you're so biting into may be knocked off your mouth (what to do then?)

Fortunately the course is specifically design to equip the person with these skills, techniques and practical application.




From the Padi Official Website - Requirements for Open Water Diving

  • Number of Dives: Five Confined Water Dives and Four Open Water Dives
  • Knowledge Development: Five sessions
  • Prerequisites: 10 for Junior Open Water Diver and 15 for Open Water Diver. Good health, reasonable fitness and comfort in the water.
  • Materials You’ll Need: PADI Open Water Crew-Pak, PADI Open Water Video or DVD, Log Book.
  • Equipment you’ll use during the course includes: mask, fins, snorkel, tank, regulator, buoyancy compensator, submersible pressure gauge and exposure protection as required by the local environment.
After passing the final exam, you will receive a temporary diver's card while the laminated ID card is under process. A mail is sent out to the nearest Padi office and they will mail it back to you. Either way, you've just led yourself into a whole new world of fun and adventure!


are they bubbly or what? :)

Ca De Vin



[ pictured above, from left to right : the entrance, the old building walls, the view as one looks back to the entrance. ]

Tucked in the small Postal Lane running through the General Post Office building is Ca de Vin (House of Wine), a cozy restaurant in heart of Melbourne but with a somewhat European setting. The entrance may be easily overlooked by shoppers and passers-by, but once you stumble into it you’re in for a treat. Have a good look at the old-fashioned windows and walls to the left and old posters and blackboards with the Specials as the staff gladly guide you to your seat, then find your way through the menu and match it up with a glass (or two) of red or white wine for a fine gastronomic experience.

Sample the duck ravioli or the interesting linguini with crab, saffron and grilled lime. Paired with the Crabtree Riesling, the meal would definitely go down very well. Try going on a Satuday afternoon when it is not as hectic as the usual lunch rush, but the place is also ideal for a coffee catch-up or perhaps a dinner date!



the duck ravioli and crab linguini


See for yourself!
Address : GPO 350 Bourke St. Melbourne VIC

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Milk Bread

Found another winner in this very simple milk bread recipe.


Original recipe :
500g bread flour
150ml lukewarm milk
150ml lukewarm water
15g active yeast
1 tspn of salt
1 tspn sugar

Mix yeast in the lukewarm milk. Sift the remaining dry ingredients together, make a well in the center and add the liquids. Knead until shiny and smooth. Place in well greased loaf tin and let rise for about one and a half hours and then bake at 180C for around 50-60minutes. Easy!



For this batch (as it was the first time), I only made half and used more milk and resulted to a slightly richer bread with a crunchy crust yet soft core.

More tinkering with this recipe is expected!

[ follow the bread trail in the tags ]

Floating Yum Cha

"Spring Rolls” into the Asian Food Festival in Melbourne for the whole month of September. This includes 30 participating restaurants and a myriad of events that further conspire to celebrate the great Asian cuisine.

One of the events was the “Floating Yum Cha” – lunch on a cruise around Melbourne rivers onboard the Lady Cutler Showboat. This boat particularly caters to entertainment, with a bar, club lounge and dance floor on the main deck, and a dining area on the upper deck, but for this event’s purpose all decks were converted to dining areas. Guests met up at the Waterfront City in Docklands at 12 noon where the boat waited patiently, even ran 30 minutes late for the last of the guests to arrive. The safety routine was demonstrated, then the cheerful captain led us on to the cruise.

The Yum Cha was quite a disappointment as it was not the expected typical way of having one. We were expecting trolleys with the dim sum being served around, however we were advised to go up to the main deck where the yum cha buffet table is. For good measure, table numbers were called up to take their turn for an organized manner. As there were quite a number of people onboard, the impulse is to avoid the subsequent queue and take as much as you can. And with the boat leaving quite late, the hungry ones are sure to devour quite everything in sight in one go. The selection is also quite limited, there were two small tables – one for the steamed dumplings, one for the fried. There were noodles, steamed buns, sesame balls, and jelly (with lychee, but the red jelly somewhat tasted of cough syrup) and mango pudding, which was not bad. Green tea was served and it came in tea bags in a pot as opposed to loose leaf tea, and were served lukewarm most of the time, but the pots that needed refilling were attended to immediately.

The cruise is quite relaxing and allows a good tour of Melbourne – Williamstown, St. Kilda, Port Melbourne all came to view at one point, but most of the time it is the industrial face with berths, sailboats, yachts, even the gigantic shipping liners with overhead chains creaking as the shipping containers were being transported from one point to another. The afternoon turned out to be quite chilly with a hint of rain, so one could either sit outside the deck to catch some breeze, or stay inside the deck.

Perhaps as a tourist attraction and for yum cha novices, this would be an acceptable experience. However, if you like your yum cha the usual way, better to head off to your favorite restaurant to have it. From this experience, it appears that a cruise and yum cha are best done separately.


[ On another note, (not in connection with the floating yum cha) someone wrote about his yum cha dining experience here ]

Friday, September 5, 2008

Closer

Chapel off Chapel is the main Arts venue at the City of Stonnington. The venue is cozy and has a bar that serves coffee, beer and a range of wine, which can be enjoyed at the foyer while admiring the art work displayed by the walls. The venue has a Main Chapel which can seat 250 people, and the Loft can accommodate 100. The experience can be quite intimate as the actors are just a few feet away from the front row. For this season, Patrick Marbel’s play Closer is the main attraction at the Chapel Loft. The best part is that any pre-show drinks can be taken inside the Loft and enjoyed while the show progresses.

The ads for play state that it is “Not for the emotionally squeamish, Closer mercilessly exposes the darker side of our relationships.” The plot revolves around relationships, intense immediate attractions, deception and betrayals between the four characters – Alice the stripper, Anna the photographer, Dan the Obituary Writer and Larry the Dermatologist - over a number of years.


In 1998 the play was awarded the Laurence Olivier Best New Play, while the movie (released in 2004 with the same title and also written by Marbel) has won 2 Golden Globe Awards: Natalie Portman for Best Supporting Actress – Drama and Clive Owens for Best Supporting Actor – Drama. The same actors were nominated for Academy Awards for the same category. In the play, Dylan Lloyd played the same role as Clive Owen as the dermatologist, and gave an exemplary performance that was most notable among the very competent cast.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Caked Out

Blueberry!

blueberry 'cake' with a dusting of icing sugar

This berry is packed with antioxidants and is hence really good for the body. This particular fruit would always have a place in my freezer, where it can be stored, without detrimental effects on its flavor and can be enjoyed even if its not in season.

I once came across a 'blueberry bread' recipe from a magazine, and at the time I made it I used a loaf tin. I just had tiny tweaks to the recipe, and it turned out to be very moist and tasty.

the previous blueberry creation, chilling out

blueberry goodness

Those who sampled the initial attempt (pictured above) called it as 'cake', perhaps because of its sweet and moist qualities). So it shall be called blueberry cake henceforth!

A mini rave was written about it here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another Loaf

[ An addition to the previous post on home made breads ]

The quest for a personal bread recipe is still on! However, because of the existing cold weather, it takes a bit longer for the leavened dough to rise. This one is a variation to the corn bread recipe, leaving the corn out but retaining the cornmeal, left to rise overnight, kneaded on a well-floured board and left for another hour and a half to proof on the loaf tin. The result was a slightly thick, crunchy crusted bread, with a taste reminiscent of sourdough. This taste is achieved with the longer rising time that the dough has been given. But because of the bits of cornmeal it is more like a ‘corn sourdough bread’, and proved to be an excellent match with hearty soups or toasted on its own for brekky.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Web





hints of spiderman's practice

Seen Underwater


Intro Divers linking arms for safety's sake at the (outer) Great Barrier Reef

Lion Pub at Melbourne Central

Right beside Melbourne Central's entertainment zone Kingpin, is actually another entertainment center - but in a different form!

The Lion Pub is a spacious, old style pub with a generous scattering of wide screen tv's that usually feature sports, and a small stage that offers live bands or a dj.

On a Saturday night you will find a huge crowd gathered in front of this stage, dancing or jumping up and down with Somerset , one of the pub's regular performers.

The variety on tap is as what one would expect from pubs and the wine list would definitely not let you down. However, for pub grub, better skip the pizza.

While the crowd may be very engaging and ultimately rocking, you can still sit outside if you find the 'noise' a bit overbearing. It would still count as having a 'quiet drink with friends', but then again this may be subjective - better to just try it out and see for yourself then.

More photos and some other reviews here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Yum Cha at Shark's Fin

Dubbed as "the best chinese restaurant in melbourne" (according to their site...!), Shark's Fin Restaurant offers a Cantonese menu and yum cha is available daily. Those who have not heard about yum cha before... have been missing a lot, or actually doing it without knowing it!

Yum Cha directly translates to "drink tea", which is what one does while partaking various dim sums, offered around by the waiters or waitresses as they push trolleys piled with bamboo steamers, plates of crispy squid or sticky rice or stuffed oysters, together with the rest of hakkao, pork siu mai, an assortment of dim sums, really. Dessert is served similarly, with the all time favorite mango pudding served with milk, or egg custard and sesame balls, among others - the selection is so diverse.

Bookings are essential as the place can be packed especially on weekends - yes, all three floors of their Chinatown establishment.

You can find their site here.

Those Who Stopped By

Scribe's Notes

This pitstop is where incoherent ramblings seem to have meaning, where things or events are thought of and assessed, where great things are documented and perhaps any not-so-good happenings are written down in attempt to be forgotten!

So from the diversely abstract to the intensely specific, it's off to making tracks, and it is here where it stops for a thought or two.

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