Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cafe Love - Public Inn, Castlemaine

The Charles Whyte Cafe Love series continues with a gastro pub in Central Victoria.

Driving through the historic streets of Castlemaine one Saturday, a stiking lightshade glowing an ambiant orange caught my eye. Later I would find out that these light shades are affectionately known as the testicle lights, but their likeness to the male anatomy is not what drew me to them (I swear). Our local companion told us that the lights were inside a gastro pub that opened only a week earlier in what was once the Criterion Hotel. Although already booked into another local hot spot for lunch, plans were quickly changed so we could make a swift u-turn to explore the Public Inn, the new kid on the block that shines like a beacon in the central Victorian goldfields.

I loved this place from the moment I saw the light from the street and I'll admit from the start that I was in a good frame of mind mind when I visited. Not only do I love the company I was keeping on this day, I love visiting Castlemaine so there was certainly a good vibe going on in my heart. However, I don't give love easily and despite this blog being all about the things that make my heart sing, this little heart does not sing in cafes or restaurants unless I taste some love in the decor, the service and the food - each facet of the trio must have me licking my lips for more. The Public Inn did not disappoint.

The use of natural wood features, high ceilings and a neutral colour scheme make the Public Inn immediately fresh, open and welcoming. The service could be described with the same adjectives, and no amount of incessant questioning on our part was too much for manager Carly. Not only were we interested in how particular dishes were cooked and where the ingredients were sourced (locally, of course), we also wanted to know where they found the sugar bowls, the beakers, the chairs and, of course, the light shades. Every question was answered and then some. How refreshing to receive such impeccable, attentive service.

Among the fresh, new features here are hints of the old, such as the exposed beams running over the front section of the venue. The console table pictured above cannot go without mention either. Along with the dark glass sugar bottles (see below image) and wine beakers, this piece is reminiscent of a laboratory and brings an element of industrial chic.

One of the Public Inn's partners is Hayden Winch, formally of the Dispensary Enoteca, a venue that bowled the Bendigo food scene over. Food here is good. For our lunchtime visit, we chose entree serves and that's what we got. We didn't leave hungry but perhaps we were missing that very full and content feeling of eating a little more when dining out!

King prawn and fennel risotto with crayfish oil - entree serving $17

Public Inn mushroom 'soffritto', cherry and pear tomatoes and olive toast $26

Wild mushroom and Madeira risotto with truffle puree - entree serving $14

Delicious coffee rounded off a relaxed, weekend lunch. 
Wines at the Public Inn are served to you straight from the barrel to your glass and the barrels on the wall make for a striking feature. 

The Public Inn will suit those looking for a meal in the country with professional service and execution in a classy and relaxed setting. I'm looking forward to another trip north to check on their progress.

Public Inn on Urbanspoon

Public Inn
Criterion Corner
Barker and Mostyn Streets
Castlemaine, Victoria 3450

Phone: 03 5472 3568

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Free lemons and a lemon tart to sweeten your day

The sight of a basket full of lemons propped on someone's front fence with a 'please help yourself' sign is enough to make your heart sing. That's what mine did anyway as I was cycling through Seddon and came across this scene. How sweet is that? Certainly gives you a nicer feeling than having to contort your body over a stranger's fence in order to reach the only lemon that hasn't been snaffled by another equally brazen passer-by. It is these thoughtful and generous gestures that create a lovely feeling of community. Just what I was looking for this weekend as I took a late afternoon "test ride" on my bike to my new workplace.

Now that I am living, working and snaffling free lemons within a 1.5km radius of Footscray CBD, cycling to work seems almost compulsory (not that I've done it). After catching the train to the city for the last few years, driving the car such a short distance seems quite odd, a little silly and even indulgent. I'm loving the peaceful drive home listening to Hack on JJJ but hating the guilt of joining a stream of single-passenger vehicles that spew exhaust unmercifully into the atmosphere. How I loathe guilt.

I am very excited to report that it seems the ride will only take a couple of minutes more than the car trip. Of course, it will take me a little longer to prepare in the mornings and fix my helmet hair at the other end (!) but I might save myself some time at the gym. Even though my bike basket is perfect for carting around lemons from kind strangers, I fear it will not be so good at transporting baked delights to win over my new colleagues. Lucky, I have already made a start at winning them over with this lemon tart.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the free Seddon lemons last week but that didn't seem to matter to my hungry colleagues. The citrus tang seemed to sweeten them up regardless! While easy, the recipe was very time-consuming but I thought that was fitting given it takes time to build relationships. And giving your time is one of the best ways to show sincerity. So if you're trying to meet everyone at a new workplace and learn their names, of if you want to show someone that they mean a lot to you, put aside a few hours and get tarty!

Lemon Tart

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
pinch of salt
130g cold unsalted butter, cut into samll pieces
1 egg yolk
1-2 tablespoons cold water

5 eggs
3/4 cups caster sugar
1-2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup thickened cream

To make pastry, blend together flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (don't worry if there are still some small lumps of butter). Add egg yolk and water and process until mixture begins to clump togehter. Roll pastry into a ball. wrap in plastic film and refridgerate for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, roll pastry out into a round piece 30cm across. Use to line a greased 24-cm loose-bottomed flan tin, covering the base and sides - trim so that pastry is half a centimetre above the rim. Refridgerate another 30 minutes.

Preheat over to 190°C.

Bake blind (line pastry with baking paper and fill with uncooked rice, dried pulses or pastry weights) for about 15 minutes, until the top edges are golden. Remove baking paper and weights and return shell to oven. Bake a further 10-15 minutes, until bottom and sides are golden. Cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes. reduce oven temperature to 180°C.

To make filling, whisk together all ingredients until well combined. Pour filling into shell and bake for 20-30 minutes, until filling has almost set - it should still tremble a little when shaken gently. Cool in the tin on a wire rack, the refridgerate until cold.

Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Serves 8-10

Recipe source: Penguin Dessert Bible

If you fancy a chocolate tart over a lemon one, see my earlier post on the Donna Hay bitter chocolate meringue tart. Tart it up!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Small business series - Stationery that's going somewhere

Previous posts may have given you glimpses of my enthusiasm for discovering and supporting local businesses. I rave about Aussie brands that are breaking into international markets -like Aesop. I rave some more about brands based in country areas that produce products that compete with the best, like Mount Zero. I shout from the rooftops about amazing little eateries that spring up on streets just like those we pound every day, like Seddon Deadly Sins, the Hardware Societe and Pizza Verde. Now, if you'll indulge me, I'm going to holler from the blogosphere about some small, local businesses that have got me all excited as they begin to find their feet. To kick off what I hope will be an ongoing series, I bring to you Peacocks Paperie, designer stationery and paper couture made in Melbourne.

 Peacocks Paperie design 'Ava'

Behind Peacocks Paperie is a pint-size creative star called Amy. With experience in creative advertising for ad agencies in Australia and the UK, Amy started Peacocks Paperie to indulge her true passions. After spending a few days with Amy to come up with a very special save-the-date card for a friend's wedding, it is evident that her work is a labour of love and she brings a unique combination of intense creativity with the ability to bring big ideas to fruition with a practical, can-do approach.

  Peacocks Paperie design 'Florence'

As one of the only stationery designers in Melbourne using the artisan process of letterpress printing,  Peacocks Paperie offers clients unique, luxurious stationery that will transport you to a bygone era. After admiring Peacocks' designs, I want to renew my vows just so I can have a letterpress invitation with that vintage feel only letterpress can provide. The thought of individually running each invitation through a letterpress (or paying someone to do it for you) won't appeal to everyone, but I love the idea of creating each invitation by hand using an ancient technique for the special people in your life. Then again, I share Amy's excitement for whimsy and extravagence so you might expect that.

 Peacocks Paperie design 'Florence'

The result of my time assisting in the Peacocks Paperie studio, is this impressive save the date piece for Sally and Ryan's wedding in Bali.

 I just love the return address print on the envelopes.

Guest names are printed on card tied around the invitation with string, reminiscent of an old luggage tag.

The save the date slips into a pocket that emulates an airline boarding pass, a nod to the overseas destination.

With a save the date as unique and gorgeous as that, expectations for the formal invitation will high as the bride-to-be pointed out. Her inherant style, coupled with creative direction and expert execution from Peacocks Paperie, will ensure that there is next to no chance of the invitation not meeting our lofty expectations. The anticipation will be so great that I'll be wielding my scissors and offering my labour once again, just to get a sneak peak.

Sucessful businesses, as we all know, are about more than an amazing product, so it's promising to see that this little, local beauty has built a gorgeous, comprehensive website, started a blog and used some of her advertising nous to create beautiful advertising for bridal magazines.  With the recent acquisition of a second letterpress - a mammoth Gordon & Gotch machine that dates back a century or so - committment and investment in the business is obvious and will very possibly transform the Peacocks Paperie production process.  Gordon, as the press is affectionatley known, very possibly stands higher than Amy herself so I wish her all the best as she churns paper delights from the new beast. Bonne chance.

Peacocks Paperie

Phone: 03 9415 7412
Mobile: 0413 243 153

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The big kids go out to play

With a new addition to the extended family, I found an excuse to head back to Spindleberry. You may remember me sharing my delight over this children's store a few months ago and declaring it sing-worthy. My sentiments haven't changed and there are still many things in there that I want for the big kid in me. Alimrose Designs makes a lot of them, like a little red riding hood doll:

 Cute! And a British guard soldier:

How smart is he? Who cares if it's a squeaky rattle thing used to console a screaming baby?

With so many gorgeous gift options calling your name in Spindleberry, decision-making is difficult, but the shop assistant is so helpful and patient. I dare say she was pleased when I left so she could finally unpack all the new stock she had waiting.

After much deliberation, I settled on a jointed toy pony and bib in the same fabric from Alimrose Designs and a little red case to present them in. The case may seem unnecessary but I have already seen it used as a doctor's case by the new addition's big brother! Why, how versatile.

Alimrose Designs are stocked in stores within Australia and internationally and sold online through various websites.

I visited Spindleberry at:
276 Union Rd, Moonee Ponds, VIC, 3039
(03) 93706677

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Charles Whyte returns with a tart to remember

Forgive me my long, unexplained absence. Finishing a job and starting a new one has sapped all my time, but fear not about my heart as it has been singing a few tunes in recent weeks due to the excitement of embarking on a new challenge.

Change is a wonderful way to reinvigorate yourself and I have been relishing in it. Admittedly, I have been pining to get back to a routine that allows me to write this blog. Just writing and reflecting on my love's makes my heart sing. Charles Whyte has become an important outlet for me, allowing me to focus on all that I fancy and everything that makes me happy. Regrettably, this is sometimes superficial and is not a balanced reflection of life in all its facets. It's not that I hope to create a picture of a perfect life or suggest that material possessions will make you happy. No, no. For me, it's about changing my station from Radio Doom and Gloom to one that puts a spring in my step, shines a little winter sunshine on my face and encourages me to focus on what makes me happy. I have had my share of clouds hovering above so I'm willing the sun to shine through the blur of grey and with my new power that is Charles Whyte, I feel able to do that. Just looking at pretty things helps. The credit card can stay safe in my wallet (most of the time!) as I don't have to buy all the delightful things I write about  to enjoy them.

What makes my heart sing may not always strike a chord, but my great hope is that this blog will have you thinking of the things in your life, big and small, that make you happy. Surrounding yourself with what and who you love surely makes life sweeter.

So I'm back, invigorated and excited about all the posts that have been building up waiting to be posted. As thanks for your patience, today I bring to you the Donna Hay bitter chocolate meringue tart made for a special birthday.

Look no further if you're baking for a chocoholic, but be warned, this is not a tart for the faint-hearted. It's seriously rich and thin slivers are recommended. The filling is almost pure chocolate pleasure and the meringue provides some light relief.

Best of all, the recipe is easy to make. Try it for yourself.

For other dreamy chocolate concoctions, set aside some salivating time to flip through the Donna Hay Simple Essentials Chocolate book.

Pulling a good looking tart out of the oven is a happy moment, trumped only by hearing the appreciate mmm's as those near and dear take their first bite. Mmm.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...