Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cabbages and Kings!

So. We have joined the ranks of home gardeners everywhere.
On Sunday past, in the glorious Autumnal sunshine of the Melbourne suburbs, we finally did it. Grabbed a hoe and hit the ground running. That's right. We planted a vegie patch. 
Now I can hear what's going through your mind- 'way-to-go... Autumn, such a great time to get planting- doofus you just missed the
 Summer ripeness of tomato's'. 
And I have to say I hear you. I was sadly disappointed to have to scratch a long litany or very pretty looking tomato's from my nursery list, but what can I say, when the mood strikes and your better half is up for some clod turning, you gotta get while the goings good. 

All this means is a little tweak to what you propose to plant and a certain amount of seedling-love in a sunny box before you plant the rows of happy little vegetables.
So, we chose the sunny patch of yard (where every drought stricken shrub of summer was D.E.A.D), ripped it all up, measured it all out and made the pilgrimage to Bunnings- purely for the 'technical bits'n'pieces' like edging, you understand. The seed purchases were reserved for a beautiful drive to Heronswood House, the home of the seed-savers Diggers Club of 
Australia. Ain't no way that my home grown organic vegies are gonna be from GM Monsanto 'engineered to die' seeds. 
You see, I have a bee in my bonnet (appropriate for the gardening, I know) about the seeds that are engineered to need replanting from new seeds the following season, and not the seeds that you collect from your own hard won crop. That's right, they are bred so that if you try to grow seeds collected from your own crop, if they grow at all, they produce a sad shadow of your original crop. They are designed to fail in a second sowing. It makes me sad. These seeds that are engineered to die, making us dependent on the seed companies.  
So there we were, now members of the Diggers Club, with packets of heirloom seeds (rescued seeds from crops that have fallen out of production- if you want to know why, then check out the post from February 10). Oh the excitement, the joy, the potential to propagate! 

Home again, home again and back to the soil prep.
But long story short, here we are. Boxes of seeds sprouting on the window ledge in the sun. Direct sow seeds happily in the ground. I am now officially in a countdown to being able to eat my own vegetables and I plan to detail the adventure to see how easy it really is to cut down on my impact on the environment with my food production. For our Winter harvest we have; purple Dutch peas (I'll earn me clogs yet!), broad beans, carrots, radish, broccoli, red cabbage, kohlrabi, rainbow silver-beet, corriander, parsley and basil.
Oh what a joy to see what happens. I am so excited that I have been dreaming of multicoloured soups of silver-beet! Perhaps this is a sign that I need to get out more.
But it's bigger than just switching to the garden rather than the supermarkets- we already get our vegies from the local growers markets and we will continue to do so. The next step in our 'footprint reduction' journey is now a matter of water. Our little vegie patch is thirsty- and I actually mean that. The poor, abused and drought besieged soil soaked up every last drop (once we got it going in at all, rolled right off the top it did) -and that hardly even cracked the surface. It's going to take a lot of buckets from the shower and the sink to make sure that we are doing our best to 1.) keep our vegies alive, 2.) meet the watering restrictions in place in our 'hood' and 3.) manage to get a crop at all.

It's a bigger commitment than we anticipated (see my muscles rippling from the chain-gang of bathroom water saving- my shower this morning saw me surrounded by buckets). 
But when all is said and done, and my new little haven of vegetable bliss looks so promising, I think we might be up to the challenge. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Location Cuisine

I have a little problem and it seems to be becoming more apparent. 
I have harboured for a while a sad feeling of disappointment in cafes and eating establishments that have everything going for them in the way of location (particularly in reference to stunning views) and then -depressingly- fail to deliver in quality of food. 

Let's call it great-expectations-not-met, or 'location cuisine'.

There seems to be a deeply entrenched trend for places to be happy to rope customers in with the promise of a beautiful view or lavishly appointed refurbishment, and simply to feel that this is enough for the ravening hoards. It's a sad fact, but also fairly self-evident, that views don't feed us. 
And when you have every reason to enjoy yourself, when an establishment has everything going for it, the last thing you want to be let down by is the food.
I guess that's why so many people are impressed and excited by the discovery of a dingy little not-much-of-a-place that looks like nothing special, but delivers a fabulous gastronomic treat- a feast fit for a king, served in a hovel. Like a secret gem discovered amongst the rubble. Perhaps that is why the backstreets of Melbourne became so cool in the first place. 

With not much to go on except the food, places just had to get it right, or risk being nothing at all- after all, why would you venture down a rabbit hole, unless it was to find a wonderland? 
Places that spring to mind are Melbourne's Von Haus, Gills Diner, and now Cumulus Inc to name a few conversions and out of the way great feeds- but Sydney is seeing an increase as well. Try finding tiny little Epi d'Or in Kirribilli, or converted garage, Oven in Cremorne. Sure they're not in the CBD, but you get the drift. It's a simple equation, 'No view = MUST get food right'. I just wish the next one was 'Great View = Greater food'.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Breakfast Out

Ok, I admit it- I've been eating breakfast out. A lot. But in my defence, someone has to do it- otherwise how would we find the best places in town? 
What makes it worse is that I am a whore for breakfast, I'll eat it at any time of day, in any city.  Really.
How can you turn it down? It really is the best meal of the day to eat out... arguably. 

Some of my reviews are starting to pop up at the wonderful (and very informative) website BreakfastOut - you really should add it to your favourites... it might help you out next time you're in a bind trying to find that perfect way to start the weekend.
The Melbourne page is really pretty comprehensive and the Sydney stuff is on its way- I've been reviewing both cities... Like I said, I'm a whore for breakky.

Friday, March 6, 2009

City sings to my tastebuds...

So as I flew into Sydney early yesterday morning for a brief visit to my birth city, I had only one thing on my mind... it was not (I am sorry to say) how beautifully blue the sky was, the way the Bridge dominates the image of the city spread out below, or the glory of the sunlight as it glints off that sexy and seductive Harbour. It was also not the friendly faces of family and loved ones that would be beaming a happy welcome at the gates as I made my flying visit. Nor was it the question of wether the airline had managed to deliver both me and my bags to the specified terminal.  
In addition to this, it was also not how balmy the temperatures were after weeks of dry, dusty and smoke-haze filled days in my ravaged-yet-still-beautiful-adoptive-home-town-Melbourne.
It was however, something that is of as much personal importance to me as all of the above. Breakfast. The one simple thing that was on my mind was where in all the loveliness of this tart of a city was I going to go for breakfast after months of being away?
Where was the one place that I could relax into this short trip, enjoy good food, good service and a comforting view? The answer was... quite personal... and it was everything I wanted it to be. 
But my question now is, how is it that after years of living in another city and state, when I have people and places to catch up on and only a short amount of time to do it, when the weather is playing to my every whim and tempting me to make the most of the sunshine- how is it that in all of this, the first question on my mind is 'what new places are there that have popped up to eat since I was last here...?'
If my waiting family knew what was really on my mind- oh the shame... the shame... and then the suggestions of where they should take me first for breakfast.