don't hold on too tightly

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A peaking light. Reaching its' ultimate heights of its glorified illumination. Only to find out the player under the sun was blind all along. She did not see the creations he shone upon, her hands filled with the warmth of objects radiating its gentle spray of heat. She opened her mouth to feast on the berries that her blossomed at the generousity of the sun's energy. The careless winds whispering promises of sweet returns and images of majestic sights, still, she turns a deaf ear. She takes her life forgranted, unknowingly forsaking the toil of the sun.

Promises liquify. Staining the floors with its teary crimson staned patches. Guilt? How can we build something based on that?

Melbourne Feasts VI: MoVida Aqui

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Dining at MoVida Aqui can be easily categorized as a revolutionary moment, a bit like my birthday dinner at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire which swung opened my perceptive doors to molecular gastronomy. Though not exuding the utlra chic airs as Reflets, Movida attracts it's own cult of followers, lovers and advocates of premium ingredients cooked with a bit of Spanish flair.

Located in the back alleys of Little Bourke, moments of anticipation build up gradually as you turn the corner only to see a sprawling glass complex one floor up. Follow the emerging chatter of diners up the stairs to see the non-descript deep-set interiors of the restaurant. I was impressed by the trail up and its accompanying views, what about it's food?

Earlier, my two accomplices; Mum and Kor had earnestly gone with the choice of ordering one of every single tapas off the menu. A boon and bane obviously as photographing only one of each can be quite a pathetic sight at times. Still, we pressed on, undeterred by the task of dividing each mini-course into three equal parts. First up, the anchoa; Hand-filleted Cantabrian Artisan anchovy on crouton with smoked tomato sorbet. I hummed a tune of silent deductions, anchovies not exactly making my list of 'most favourite things to eat'. Amazingly, this turned out to be one of the best dishes the whole night, so I shall rattle off blatantly about it. The tiny silver of anchovy sat like a twisted model sprawled over the sofa of thin crisp wafer; smoky to the touch combined with the smooth tomato sorbet providing that injection of sour and surprise.

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Bomba is Catalan potato bomb filled with chorizo; disappointing I must say as it was nothing more than a potato croquette stuffed with a non-detectable amount of chorizo.

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Another miss is the Sardina - Imported Spanish artisan Cuca sardine with tomato on toast. I guess this fails to my subjective tastes, sardines being one of the few things I detest strongly. Still looking like a work of art on the rustic round wooden board, I clicked enthusiastically.

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The AJ O Blanco (a chilled almond and garlic soup with grape granita and salt cod brandaise) was the most unpopular of the lot, the odd pairing of a cold almond soup reminiscent of the chinese almond dessert spotted with peculiar lingering of garlic infusion. I was left feeling completely mystified and slightly disappointed at the same time at the lack lustre fusion.

The Pincho de tortilla fared slightly better, a Spanish egg pancake filled with potatoes and onions. I adored the gentle mix of spices complimented by the tenderness of sauteed potatoes within the tortilla. Though not so well recieved by my fellow dining companions. But that meant more for me, no complaints!

Last on the list of Tapas Clasicas is the Bocadillo de calamares, a calamari sandwich with Basque quindilla and mayonnaise. A slightly intriguing combination on paper albeit for the tainting of the last ingredient, a universal favourite, mayonnaise. Couldn't they replace it with a aioli of sorts? Then again, who was I to mumble a word of resent after chomping down on my portion of the warm sandwich only to turn around and beg for more? fabulous.

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Now comes the part where I sing odes of praise to the following dish, and maybe the subsequent main following. So mind you, should you intend to dine at this establishment. Take a generous bite out of their mains over the tapas; just my generous piece of advice... We had the Calamres con Paloma, baby calamari stuffed with roast pigeon ragu served with fino and sorrel sauce. As our knives sank into the head of the stuffed baby squid, we begin to realise that this was no normal squid. Meeting no resistance to our knives, the squid yielded with exclusive savoury delight to our tongues. The sweetness of the roasted pigeon within its helms providing a mysterious touch to the freshness of the calamari. There again I was in trouble, risk being seen like a fool wiping up the remains of the delicious sauce or get in trouble with the financial controller of the meal by ordering another serving? I did the former. *beams*

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Last of the lot was the beef cheek on cauliflower puree which again lead to another mind blowing discovery. The flesh splitting at the gentle touch of a fork. We tore, savoured, grinned and went back to the plate for more. My love for the cauliflower puree multiplying ten fold with every sweet mouthful. Why haven't I meet you before?

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And how can we end off a meal without desserts? Seemingly a grand affair with our dessert tasting platter. Nothing beats having everything good from a restaurant's dessert section on a rustic wooden plaque beckoning for your attention. All were good except for the appearance of tainted burnt chocolate at the bottom of the jar meant for the quick skinny dipping of the churros. Credits to the olive oil icecream sitting on a throne of chocolate cake. I could have used an extra bowlful of this shoddy slightly chewy frozen delight.

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MoVida Aqui
Level 1, 500 Bourke St, Melbourne, Victoria
(enter via Little Bourke St)
Tel: +61 (03) 9663 3038

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 12pm until late (lunch and dinner)
Saturday 5pm until late (dinner only

Melbourne Feasts V: Caldemeade Farm and Cafe

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En route to Philip Island, we missed our chance at sampling the famous scones at Caldermeade Farm and Cafe as we trudged in just 30mins shy of its closing for night. Once again, on our return journey back from the rainy shores of the bunarong coastal drive, we made a mad dash for the sheds, a serious storm in tow.

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Armed with a classic milkshake and a scone set, we were all ready for tea time. In reality, the milkshake was gorgeous, a luscious mix of soul-soothing cream, vanilla flavor and insatiable glide down your throat texture. Definitely something worth lusting for. The scones though were a tad disappointing with it's dry crumb and slightly unflavored innards ( a bit of salt could have given it a significant edge); on hindsight, the accompanying cream was amazing (I spent a good 5 mins wiping up the remnants from the bottom edges of the bowl with a tiny piece of scone flesh. embarrassing i know.)


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And as we sat still waiting for the ensuing storm to blow pass, another food venture sat in the brewing pot. More to come...

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Caldermeade Farm and Cafe
4385 South Gippsland Highway Caldermeade 3984

Telephone: 03 5997 5000
Fax: 5997 5111
Email: maxwellj@tpg.com.au
http://www.caldermeadecafe.com.au/

Melbourne Feasts IV: 3 bags full

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Just in the nick of time for breakfast. Hope you guys aren't sick of my frequent brunch posts already. Besides, one can't get enough can they - words from a close egg-fanatic friend.

This time around, we venture to the industrious surroundings of the Richmond settings in Melbourne city. Clustered with grey concrete wall buildings and an even more grim parking situation, who would expect to find a hole in the wall cafe in it's midst?

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As do most famous cafes in Melbourne are, Three Bags Full (armed with a cute name) had the most amazing interiors, bare striped down walls in an effort to integrate into it's laborious surroundings, harsh large light bulb fixtures dangling off the ceilings. Only the use of designer Eero Aarnio adding a bit of artistic touch to the otherwise muted design theme. Not to mention, the lingering flavors of freshly brewed coffee tinting the cold air... warms the lungs immediately upon inhalation.

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Drinks we had ordered arrived swiftly at the table in a myriad of colors and patterns, the mocha - thick and luscious; the flat white - brewed to perfection with a hint of caffeine; the cappuccino - titillating the tired senses.

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poached eggs, smoked salmon, hollandaise sauce on sourdough toast

We ordered a trio of different dishes off the breakfast menu, the most epic of the lot being the scrambled eggs on organic toast given the fact that I hated scrambled eggs, probably linked to some past experiences of being force fed eggs at Ronald Mcdonald's breakfast table it was impressive that I could come to terms with this dish. Who could deny it anyway, luscious curdled mountains of fluffy egg perfumed with the bits of feta cheese and herbs generously mixed thru. I yielded to it's alluring form and took a bite, washed away in a riot of emotions. lovely. period.

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scrambled eggs with herbs and feta on toasted organic sourdough bread

The ricotta hotcakes were somewhat of a disappointment. Mostly because I hate oranges, it's powerful tastes makes it finicky in the flavoring of food, and I must prefer mine on its own, not having bits and pieces strewed through the ricotta on the side. The pancakes, possibly spongier and lighter from usual from the use of ricotta in the batter, soaked in the berry juices gregariously; making a wet mess of face cringing sour mouthfuls.

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ricotta hotcakes served with poached seasonal fruit, honey and orange infused ricotta.

A great breakfast among the almost all to standard eggy fare, three bags full proves itself to deliver with good quality coffee, excellent eggs on toast and a eclectic deco to match. It's no wonder the younger crowds flock to this place even in the dead of winter.

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Three Bags Full
Richmond
56 Nicholson St
Abbotsford, 3067

Melbourne Feasts III: Timboon Railway Shed Distillery

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Despite the peckish antics that we had adopted during the strawberry picking session, there was still room for more! I reckon it must have been the chilly temperatures that punctured a bottomless pit in our tummies. So off to Timboon Railway Shed Distillery we went in search for some lunch.

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Situated right smack in the center of the tiny town of Timboon is a beautifully modern shack, home to a distillery and restaurant offering modern gourmet fare. With shelves stocked full of local produce, the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery prides itself in promoting smaller businesses around the region and this helps immensely in raising the status of the restaurant as a stopover for my many tourists passing through the area in search of a gourmet escapade.

Looking at the solo female chef act through the glass windows on the way to the loo; I was comforted by their strict stance on slow food, preserving traditional and regional cuisine. Alas, the food did take a long time to reach our tables and starving lips, but in the end, we concluded the wait worth it.

The fish and chips (flat head)served with garlic aioli on the side had a crisp light batter, scattered with herbs for that additional oomph. The steak-cut fries were gorgeous, juicy chunks of potato fried to crisp on the outside with soft innards for contrast.

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The red duck beef and porter pie served with spanish onions and greens was an excellent choice too, albeit a bit heavier in flavor which may not be such a bright idea for a diner in the genre of nibbler.

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Next up, the Mediterranean vegetable lasagna with chilli Napoli and apostle whey blue cheese sauce was in my opinion, the best dish of the lot, with the word I used to shun 'vegetarian' being highlighted and elevated to new heights. This was gorgeous, with a mixture of vegetables scattered through the al dente layers of pasta, courgettes, carrots and what nots. Then layered with a blue cheese sauce instead of the usual bechamel sauce, that provided a more provocative edge to the dish. As intriging in flavor as it was pretty to look at.

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my own dish which so happened to be the special of the day was the crispy pork belly with red cabbage slaw and red wine jus. LOoking more like a heap of vegetables then a meaty dish, I was delighted at the right proportion of fatty goodness to the lovely crunch of veges on the plate. Still, the five spice proved quite an annyoing addition with a hard crunch every now and then whilst working the plate. *ouch*

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All in all, Timboon Railway Shed Distillery with it's fantastic location right smack in the center of the cross junction will surely draw the driving crowd heading inland from the great ocean road; it's delicious food and friendly service will prove to be the major draw factors for diners to this beautiful restaurant. Coupled with self distilled alcohols such as the limoncello and coffee liquer (*thumbs up*), it is a sure fire hit with locals and travellers alike. Do try and make a booking during the weekends and holiday seasons to avoid disappointments.

Timboon Railway Shed Distillery
The Railway Yard, Bailey St. Timboon. Victoria
Phone 03 55983555

Melbourne Feasts II: Berry World.

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Being in Australia in December does have it's benefits too, and as the sun starts to beat down onto the gradually warming lands, the fertile lands begin to bear it's fruits. The worn out sign 'Berry world' caught my eye from afar; What better way to kick off our gourmet adventures in the little town of Timboon (en-route from Port Campbell along the great ocean road) then with a strawberry picking session with the family.

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Owned by a most humble old couple who were more then willing to share their experiences in working on a berry farm; and of course with such generosity, we listened. Then we picked... carefully and fussily.Nonetheless, all the berries were little jewels of ripened sweetness. Sneaking little bites of our rubied finds in between sleeve rubs, we couldn't decide whether the smaller intense colored berries were sweeter than the mega sized pale colored ones. In the end, we settled for both.

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A great local find, this berry farm offer a no frills approach to berry picking, providing plastic boxes of differing sizes at different costs. At the end of the day, nothing is more satisfying then feasting on the sweet labor of our semi-back breaking work. Of course, I must admit to being lazy and running around the wide grass picking paths taking photos rather then bending over and fiddling through the itchy bushes looking for the sweet treats. Thank goodness for more efficient hunters... *beams*

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BERRY WORLD
Egan st, Timboon, Victoria

Melbourne feasts: Mart130

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Arriving late the previous night at Melbourne International Airport, I was surprised by the slight tinge of chilliness in the air outside. Did I hear the pilot rambling off about temperatures of sub 15 despite the soon approaching summer at the tail of November? How interesting. Fortunately, I came prepared for the head on collision with the change of seasons. Jackets in tow with a fair bit of summer frocks to follow en suite once the summer peeked out.

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And given the current cold situation outdoors, what better way to soothe a rumbling tummy than a good cup of hot coffee and a fantastic breakfast to kick start off the official Melbourne feasts as promised by my older brother; fyi, for whom I was in Melbourne for in the first place. Graduations… So off we went to Mart130, a quaint little eatery housed in the tight quarters of an old train station. With the muted sunlight streaming into the outdoor patio, it was perfect for some weekend chilling. As evident from the throngs of people streaming into the cafĂ© and not to mention the groups of people hogging the ‘hard-to-come-by’ seats.

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Yes. Together, the three of us shared three brunch items. The house special prosciutto and goats cheese filled omelet with tomato and basil and uncle phil’s tomato relish with dench’s multi grain toast ($17.90), French Toast made with organic brioche with grilled bacon and pure maple syrup ($16.90) and the Oven roasted corn fritters with grilled bacon, tomato relish sour cream and coriander ( $17.90) .

The only sweet item on the table; the french toast was well received by all of us. The softness of the sweet brioche enhanced by the generous dousing of pure maple syrup (note the word pure in emphasis here). Did I mention that we almost suffered a bacon over dosage after the entire meal... and yes, the bacon was gorgeous. Irresistible. Stash your diets away please.

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The omelet was a gorgeous sticky mess with melted goats cheese within the crevices of it's hot spots. Tantalized by the ooey gooey mess, I was less interested in the over toasted multi grain bread below and even less titillated by the provocative attack of the sour tomato relish on the side.

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Last but not least, the most interesting selection we made from a staple breakfast menu; oven roasted corn fritters. This had a novelty factor for me given it's semi soft, and semi crunchy textures but at the end of the day, it won no favors from me apart from the nagging fact that I was actually consuming something leaning towards the healthy spectrum for breakfast for a change.

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A hidden find that is not quite a secret anymore, judging from the throngs of people gathered outside the tram station.. Mart 130 proves to be a winner in terms of ambiance and food nonetheless. Grab a seat out on the back deck and soak up some sun whilst feasting on hearty and well executed brunch items.

Mart 130
107a Canterbury Rd, Middle Park

as good as it lasted

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freezing temperatures, the drift of fragile snow flakes from the grey skies. Yet, the warmth of a tender love fuelled by illogical logic, thawing my popsicle toes.
Thanks Baby hippo for the invite, new year in Shanghai was a blast. Many more to come.
Hang on for more overdue reviews from my recent trip to Australia as well as several birthday excursions on top of the Shanghai feasts! Promise not to disappoint this time...