Friday, March 1, 2019

The Collins Quarter

The depths of winter in Chicago are pretty miserable; icy winds and short days make one long for warmer climates. It was on a freezing cold weekend that we spontaneously booked flights to Savannah, Georgia, lured by the promise of good food and sunshine.

It was with great delight that we discovered this Melbourne-style cafe in the historical district. There's no doubt we miss Australia; sunshine, warmth, friends, and great coffee are just two plane rides away, but on the other side of the world.

The Collins Quarter was a comforting reminder that home will be waiting there for us when we wanted to return. With high vaulted ceilings, plenty of wood, images of Melbourne, and that all important slightly-too-loud-to-be-comfortable acoustics, I'd say they'd nailed the vibe pretty well.

Of course, when I excitedly said to M that we were going to The Collins Quarter for lunch, his first comment was "They'd better have Piccolos". While they didn't have piccolos exactly, they did have cortados which are pretty much the same thing.

Long Black & Cortado (Piccolo)
He deemed it decent (hooray!). I indulged in my first coffee in 20 days after a self-imposed ban, and it was good. Not perfection (where is the crema after all), but good enough, especially given this is America and not Melbourne, no matter how close we come.

Exceptionally pleased with my coffee
The menu was extensive, with the all-important smashed avocado on toast up on offer. Eggs Benedict also made an appearance, as well as Brioche French Toast.

We skipped on all those (I still prefer to make smashed avo at home, because, how else am I supposed to afford a mortgage) and ended up ordering very different meals.

Chicken Quinoa & CQ Burger  
M had the CQ Burger, with Angus beef, caramelized onion, garlic-onion aioli, cheddar, and dijon slaw on a brioche bun, with fries. It was a good hearty burger with an intense beefy taste and a decadent bun. He probably would have preferred it with a fried egg in true Aussie style.

I chose the Chicken Quinoa Salad with basil pesto marinated grilled chicken breast, smashed avocado (zing!), diced red and green pepper (capsicums), cucumber, cilantro (coriander), and quinoa salad, with cilantro cream dressing. A good healthy and filling salad, with a decent balance of flavours and freshness. My major criticism was that the ingredients were not appropriately named ;)

Overall we had a great time. We had coffee that was better than expected, the service was efficient for a super busy cafe, and if I just closed my eyes, I could almost pretend I was back home.

The Collins Quarter
151 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401, USA
Wed - Sun 6:30am - 10:00pm, Mon - Tue 6:30am - 3:00pm

The Collins Quarter Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, August 13, 2018

Roof on TheWit

Having lived in the Chicago area now for 4 years (where the heck did the time go!?), we'd long heard about the rooftop bar in the DoubleTree hotel in downtown. It was high time that I checked out the ROOT on theWit. Given it turns into a nightclub bar after about 9pm, I was pretty adamant that we would check it out for an early dinner and drinks - I've long left my clubbing days behind.

We still wanted to live it up and celebrate - so a glass of champagne to start my birthday celebrations it was!

The space itself is wonderfully open especially with the high ceilings and large sliding doors that lead out to a narrow balcony that overlook the Chicago streets. You can make out the DJ behind me spinning tunes (at a reasonable volume, at least for this time of the evening), and there's moody purple lights to add some fanciness. 

We ordered a range of dishes, and found them all pretty good. We started with a La Palma Coca - in other words, a pineapple flatbread. No arguments here about pineapple on pizza.

La Palma Coca - Spanish Chorizo, Tomato Sauce, Smoked Mozzarella, Aleppo Cured + Roasted Pineapple
What a fancy version of a ham and pineapple pizza, with fairly spicy chorizo, creamy mozzarella, and luscious sweet pineapple. I approve.

Continuing on the Spanish theme, we also had a seafood paella.

Seafood Paella - Clams, Mussels, Shrimp, Spanish Chorizo, Pickled Peppers, Piquollo Pepper Aioli, Saffron
Once again with the high quality ingredients, I liked this paella but I didn't love it. The flavours were there, but the burnt crust was missing. So it was acceptable, but nothing striking, and made me miss being in the streets of Barcelona instead. 

I did love the potatoes though - but it's not hard to love crunchy potato wedges.

Torn + Fried Potatoes - Honey, Scallions, Paprika, Mint, Curried Aioli
The wedges were perfectly cooked being crunchy on the outside and filling and smooth on the inside.I wasn't entirely sold on the aioli, but it was certainly unique in its sweetness and flavour, and I'll admit a plain garlic aioli would have been quite boring. 

All the dishes we  tried certainly had a heaping of flavor - they're not shy here.

Their cocktails were not shy either:

The Last Word (?) + Airline Controversies
These were strong. No masking the alcohol flavour with syrupy sweetness here. I didn't make a note of what M ordered (boo), but both cocktails were tasty and fun. And with my alcohol tolerance being almost nothing these days, got me quite tipsy, just in time to marvel at dessert.

Because, look at it.

Strawberry Ice Cream Crunch Bar Bites - Pistachio, Cookie Crumb, Strawberry Rose Preserves
Oh this dessert was divine.

Strawberry Ice Cream Crunch Bar Bites - Pistachio, Cookie Crumb, Strawberry Rose Preserves
The almost sickly sweetness of the preserve was offset by the cool velvet of the ice-cream, and the salty rich crunch of the pistachios. What a beautiful presently, fun, brash yet classy dessert. Love from first bite to last. 

By the time we left, the nightclub vibe was taking over, so we made our exit. Not before taking in once last view of the Chicago streets though.

A fun ambiance, creative food and drinks, and excellent service. What else could you ask for? Just make sure to come for an early dinner if you want a dining experience rather than a clubbing experience.

ROOF on theWit
201 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Mon - Fri 2:00pm - 2:00am, Sat 2:00pm - 3:00am, Sun 2:00pm - 10:00pm

ROOF on theWit Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sociale (Como, Italy)

I'll keep this post less detailed than usual, because after all, aren't holidays about trying to relax as much as you can?

After a few days wandering the streets of Prague, we made our way to Italy, more specifically, Como to spend some time with family by the lake. After a day visiting the beautiful (touristy) towns of Varenna and Bellagio, and enjoying the fresh lake breeze under the warm sunshine, we decided to head into the main town of Como for dinner.

The streets certainly are pretty:

After being vetoing a few restaurants we walked past, and being turned away from a restaurant due to lack of space, we ended up at Sociale, a homely restaurant tucked away near the cathedral. 

Our waiter was mostly attentive throughout the evening, and well versed in Italian, English, and French, among other languages too I'm sure. We started off with the obligatory bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a bottle of red: 

and some cold appetizers,

Affettato misto da
 and warm appetizers to share.

Antipasto caldo del Sociale

Tonda di polpette
 For mains,
Spaghetti alla carbonara

Osso Buco

Proposta di pesce del giorno 
As you can see, the food couldn't be considered light by any standards. Hearty and filling, it was perhaps over-seasoned with salt and/or MSG (we were all very thirsty afterwards). Reasonably priced however, we left with full bellies and in a happy mood (good food, good wine, and good company will do that after all). 

A nice evening walk along the lake capped off a pretty superb day.

Como, you were so touristy but still so lovely.

Via Rodari, 6, 22100 Como CO, Italy
Wed - Mon 12:00pm - 230pm, 7:00pm - 10:30pm

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Milk & Honey Nashville

I've been to Nashville quite a few times now, but rarely have I had the chance to grab a good brunch. Luck would have it that on a lovely Friday mid-Spring, I would up in Nashville within walking distance of Milk & Honey, a cafe that came highly recommended by a local friend.

Milk & Honey Nashville
A charming cafe by day, and a hip bar by night, it's a beautifully laid out, casual space with a great breakfast menu, and extensive drink options. Of course, I settled for a cold brew with a splash of coconut milk, perfect for the early heat of the day.

Cold Brew
Smooth and delicious, the delicious drink boded well for the food to come. The brunch menu has a heavy focus on sandwiches and bagels, but also has a reasonable selection of what they call "Other Good Stuff", including Shakshuka, Omeletes, Chicken & Waffles, and my order, the Hodgepodge Hash.

Hodgepodge Hash
This was a lot of food. With roasted red potatoes, sweet potatoes, pastrami, sausage, sauteed veggies and peppers, caramelized onion, pickled red onion, chipotle crema, feta, and cilantro, all topped with an egg, it was certainly a busy dish. Busy, but undeniably tasty. And filling. 

With a choice of sides, the fresh fruit seemed like the sensible option to offset the heaviness of the dish. All pretty reasonably priced too at $14 (pre-tax & tip of course).

My dining companion chose something a little less messy, but no less indulgent and delicious.

Alabama Pork Biscuit
Because when in the South, why not have a rich Biscuit for breakfast? With pork confit, caramelized onion, Alabama white sauce, white cheddar, onion spread, and an egg, it's a gratifying breakfast, smothered with silky yolk. What's not to love. 

Milk & Honey is a great choice for brunch to celebrate and indulge in food and life, with rich dishes and smooth coffee. Good service and a fun atmosphere top it all off, and I look forward to returning next time I'm in Nashville.

Milk & Honey Nashville
214 11th Ave S, Nashville, TN, USA
Sun - Thu 6:30am - 10:00pm, Fri - Sat 6:30am - 11:00pm

Milk and Honey Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, April 27, 2018

Miss Marple's Tearoom

With just a week to spend in the Melbourne Autumn, I had to get out of the city and into the Dandenong Ranges. After an ambitious climb up the 1000 Steps (I say ambitious because it's been at least 5 years since I last went up them), we made the short trip over to Sassafras for a return visit to Miss Marple's Tearoom.

As before, it struck me how quaint the tearoom is, how busy it is (we were lucky to snag a table for two straight away even though we only arrived 30 minutes after opening), and how eye-watering the prices were. But you go in knowing what to expect, which is all of the above.

To start things off, we had a pot of the Yorkshire Gold tea.

Yorkshire Gold Tea
I'm not entirely sure that I would call this the "best cup of tea in England", but it certainly was pretty good. With the requisite milk of course. 

From there, we moved onto a few dishes to share.

Soup of the Day (Cream of Broccoli) & Pimlico Pastie
First up, the soup of the day. On the day of our visit, it was a Cream of Broccoli rendition, that was silky, rich, and was obviously made with extremely fresh produce. Indulgent while feeling healthy at the same time, this was accompanied by slightly salty, freshly baked bread. 

We also ordered the Pimlico Pastie. The accompanying salad was nothing to get excited about, but the large-sized pastie itself had a wonderfully buttery pastry and filled with a soothing variety of vegetables (including onion, celery, and potato if my memory serves me). At $17, it's pretty expensively priced, but you pay for the venue and atmosphere as much the food itself. 

To finish, of course we had the Devonshire Scones.

Devonshire Scones with Raspberry Jam & Cream
Far from traditional, these rectangular, mostly-crustless scones were light, but incredibly filling. After trying both cream first (Devonshire) and jam first (Cornwall) methods, we decided the best construction came from the jam first method - sorry Devonshire. 

Miss Marple's Tearoom is decidedly a tourist destination, and one you would be advised to try and visit shortly after opening to have the best chance of getting seated without a wait. The food servings are generous, but pricey. And while you don't have to, I recommend getting the Devonshire Scones (their star menu item after all).

Which has left me a craving for these scones all the way over the ocean in the USA. Time to track down a recipe...

Miss Marple's Tearoom

382 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras VIC
Mon - Fri 11:00am - 4:00pm, Sat - Sun 11:00am - 4:30pm

Miss Marple's Tearoom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Rudie's Seafood & Sausage

2017 passed by in a blur of work, travel, and bursts of activity followed by bursts of hibernation. We did somehow manage to summon the energy for a road trip down to Nashville after Christmas, and so found ourselves at Rudie's on NYE.

Which turned out to be a pretty great thing, especially in the biting cold. It's a warmly lit, well-heated, neighborhood restaurant in East Nashville, filled with comfort food options. Not much more you could ask for right on the cusp of healthy new years resolutions.

Resolutions for me which include a Dry January, so I was definitely ordering a Vesper Martini:

Vesper Martini
Smooth, intriguing, and full of alcohol - perfect.  

As mentioned, the menu is comforting. Which means indulgent. Wanting to warm up from the inside out, I ordered the Half Hog Stew.

Half Hog Stew
This consisted of a stew of tender braised pork (including unctuous pieces of fat), red potatoes, leeks, rosemary, accompanied by a gig and cave-aged cheddar grilled cheese, drizzled in honey. Sweet, salty, rich, and crunchy, all rolled into one dish. Heaven on a plate (and a bowl). 

Friends ordered similarly decadent dishes (but from the Chef's Specials menu) and were similarly happy with their choices:

Lobster Pot Pie
Lobster Pot Pie with lobster tail, lardon, fennel, leek, and grilled corn, accompanied by a lobster butter popover.

Pork Chop Tomahawk
Pork Chop Tomahawk (16oz!) with collard greens, black-eyed peas, and a sweet potato and relish puree. 

From a glance at some of the blackboards decorating the joint, the sources for the meat and seafood can be attributed to single farms across the country. Which would cater for the hipster-vibe of the place. 

Even with all the decadence, we couldn't pass up on a chocolate lava cake for dessert - split three ways of course. 

Dark Chocolate Lava Cake
Which came out not looking quite like a lava cake, but did have an interesting blueberry-lavender ice-cream (give me all the lavender ice-creams please) on the side. A perfect end to a wonderful NYE meal.

Overall, Rudie's is deserving of its high rating. The ambiance is cozy, the servers are efficient and friendly, and the food is rich and decadent. Definitely a nice dinner date location, or for an indulgent catch-up with friends. If only I lived closer to Nashville.
Rudie's Seafood & Sausage

1402 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN
Mon - Fri 4:00pm - 10:00pm, Sat 1:00pm - 10:00pm, Sun 11:00am - 10:00pm

Rudies Seafood and Sausage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Well made documentaries have a way of getting into your head. After watching a few episodes of Chef's Table (a series that profiles a single world-renowned chef in each episode), when we heard that the restaurant Next (by Grant Achatz) was running a "50 World's Best" menu it was merely a matter of when we were going to go, rather than if.

The allure of a short-appearance menu, featuring recreations of brilliant dishes from world-renowned chefs, was too much to pass up. 

We ended up booking the last seating on a cool Friday night, and settled in for a 17 dish extravaganza, getting ever-more sillier as the dinner and wine-match progressed. But my, what a feast and delightful time we had. 

After entering the dark but bustling restaurant, we were given orders not to touch the centerpieces. It soon became apparent why - they had edible components. 

Rose - Quique Dacosta
Our first dish was presented as part of the roses decorating our table. The rose, apple, and pomegranate bite was tart and refreshing, and just a touch sweet. 

This was followed by what seemed like a simple cracker, but really, should be the cracker-style amuse bouche by which all others are judged. 
Jerusalem Artichoke - Geranium
More complex than a potato crisp, this was salty, and crunchy, and the only disappointing thing was that there was only one per person. 

A cold, initially confusing dish was up next.

An Oyster's Frozen Kiss - Mugaritz
The idea here was to bring the ice-ball up to your lips, so that you effectively kissed the ice in order to eat the oyster. Having not made it out to Mugaritz when we were in San Sebastian, we were looking forward to trying this. We were not disappointed. The oysters had a rich taste, and were just a little briny. The radish flower was delicate and pretty to look at, although didn't add anything perceptible to the taste and so didn't take away from the purity of the oysters. Delightful! 

Eggs Benedict - Eleven Madison Park

Eggs Benedict - Eleven Madison Park
This next dish was fun. Quirky presentation in a little tin can, with bits of ham and asparagus, offset with indulgent caviar, made this the fanciest Eggs Benedict I've ever had. And with the cutest little English muffins too. Perhaps one day we'll make it out to Eleven Madison Park - after all, NYC is only a short plane flight away.

Marine Soil - Central
The next dish was beautifully presented and had me dreaming of pottery classes again. The sea urchin was creamy and custard-like, the razor clams were super sweet, and the jicama was a nice crunchy contrast. Celebrating all things ocean, this was one of my favourite dishes of the night.

King Crab - Noma
That said, this was my favourite dish. Succulent and sweet king crab, with beef garum and rose miso lending a good dose of umami, and hens egg yolk to amp up the creaminess. The smell alone was heady and intoxicating. I never wanted this dish to end (and am considering making a trip to Noma as soon as it reopens). But as always, as showstopping as this was, the show must go on. 

Tartare - Estela

Tartare - Estela
After the headiness of the king crab, this bison tartare didn't quite shine as brightly as it should have. The most filling dish of the night, it was well constructed, and full of flavour, but didn't really pack a punch. 

Badger Flame Beet - Blue Hill at Stone Farms
I'm also all for celebrating the essence of an ingredient, but as heirloom and special as a beetroot can be, and as sweet and earthy as it was, I'm not sure it should have warranted a spot on this menu. Each to their own though I suppose. 

Riso Cacio e Pepe - Osteria Francescana
I was on much happier ground with the risotto dish from Massimo Bottura. Rich with Parmesan, and touched with pepper and not much else, it really was a masterclass in perfectly cooked risotto. Soft grains, with bite, and really just a super-perfected comfort meal. Lovely.

Langoustine - Restaurant Tim Raue
With wasabi, mango, and Thai vinaigrette, this lobster-esque dish was delicate and refreshing. Not what I would have imagined German food to be, but that's half the beauty of this menu - breaking perceptions and spreading globalism, all while sitting at the same table. 

Monkfish - Aubergine
Another masterclass in presentation was this Monkfish dish. Or maybe I just have a thing for blue plates. The fermented peppers were a touch spicy, and offset the sweetness of the white fish. Which are also a hideously ugly species if you're ever inclined to look them up. 

I should mention at this point, the wine pairing was really hitting me, so while I tried to keep critical of the dishes, in honesty, I was having too much fun at this point to do more than just enjoy the experience. 

Vuelve a la Vida - Quintonil
Sweet scallops, rich tender beef tongue, and a slightly tangy salsa to tie it all together. This is what my limited experience would call elevated Mexican food. Which reminds me I do need to travel to Mexico at some point and try real Mexican food, not just tacos and Chipotle.  

All Parts of the Pumpkin - Attica
I really, really, wanted to like this dish. But I didn't. Too acidic and too jarring compared to the preceding dishes, I was hoping for a better representation of Australian fine dining. I hadn't had the chance to visit Attica back when I was living in Melbourne, and this dish hasn't compelled me to try. Which is a shame.  

Squab - Next
What I did enjoy was Next's own dish. Perhaps as a cheeky nod to the fact they're not yet in the 50 World's Best list but thoroughly deserve to be. The meat (pigeon) is tender, with a beautiful delicate herbal flavour from the lavender sauce. I can't wait to see what Next does, well, next. 

Memory - Restaurant Andre
This dish was rich. Foie gras and black truffle - what a combination. Looking like a dessert and tasting like a savoury flavour bomb, it was delicious but undoubtedly heavy. Go hard or go home I guess.

Apples - Relæ
And was immediately followed by something refreshing and light. Some crunchy chanterelles accompanied the classy apple granita, and served as a nice palate cleanser. 

Then came the bold dessert celebration, where all was swept off the dining table, and a sheet laid down turning it all into a giant canvas.

Chocolate - Alinea
An Alinea signature, dessert is a show to cap the end of a long entertaining food journey. Yogurt is treated like paint, with milk chocolate and blueberries adding substance, this is a super fun dish to see being created, and to consume. You are literally eating off the table. 

What a way to end the night.  

Next - The World's 50 Best Restaurants Menu
All in all we had a great night out. Expensive but worth every penny, the menu really did showcase the insane amount of skill possessed by the team of chefs. Served in dark-cool surroundings by super-professional yet friendly waiters, it's an experience I'm keen to return to, time and time again. Which, luckily for me, I can given the regularly changing menu. What a joy of a restaurant!

953 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL
Wed - Sun 500am - 1130pm

Next Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato