Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cafe Love: The Premises, Kensington

Doing research and making plans is to be encouraged, particularly when it comes to scouting out places to have good eats, but I must admit that it's so exciting to just stumble upon a place. And so it happened that I lay in bed with my phone several Sundays ago diligently searching out and deciding upon a breakfast venue in Kensington, only to find myself in Bellair Street an hour or so later walking into another place. Perhaps it was the grey and green industrial light shades drawing me in, or the thought that so many other people jostling for tables couldn't be wrong. Either way, I landed in The Premises and I was not disappointed.

The interior features lots of pared-back industrial furniture, old school desks, concrete floors, natural wood and exposed brick, yet displays of water pitchers and succulents in mugs at the tables make it homely.

The menu features lots of organic items with a focus on natural ingredients. They don't serve sweetener, only raw sugar and the juice is a brand called 'Found Organic', an organic carbon neutral product from Turkey. I like this focus, but at the same time, I question why they wouldn't just make fresh juices from local produce rather than serve juice from overseas. Is it just me, or are cafes trying harder to 'look' organic than 'be organic?

 Very good coffee and that juice (strawberry)

Poached eggs on organic toast ($8.50) with Newmarket bacon ($4) and Aunty Kath's tomato chutney ($1)

The Mister enjoyed his bacon and eggs, even saying they were "sweet". Literally sweet from the chutney.

 French toasted brioche with baked rhubarb compote, marscapone and ginger crumble $14.50

My breakfast was good enough to get me back to The Premises again. The tartness of the rhubarb juxtaposed perfectly with the sweet syrup and the almost donut-like flavour and texture of the French toast corners. The ginger crumble was the piece de resistance, setting it apart from similar brioche and fruit offerings elsewhere. A perfect end note. I think I was audibly moaning "mmm" and I did get asked if that was really breakfast. Oh yes, yes it is!

The advantage of ordering the naughty-but-oh-so-nice breakfast is that you are far too full to be enticed by the lovely offerings beckoning at the cash register. Something for next time, perhaps?!

The Premises on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sewing sunshine

Sewing may be one of those hobbies that takes hold with force for an intense few months and is then abondoned abruptly. Or so I start thinking when the Mister tells me that setting up a permanent sewing table is akin to buying a treadmill! No matter, I am enjoying this new love and I am managing just fine with my temporary workstations on the desk or dining table, and Aunty Cele's sewing machine is an agreeable and dependable dame.

After completing a beginner's sewing course recently, I was ready to buy a pattern and attempt it solo. The European cushions in these photos are the fruits of my labour. If you catch me skipping past our guest bedroom, it's because I've just set my eyes on these babies and I'm feeling all proud and disbelieving. I somehow managed to make sense of the confusing, jargon-laden instructions of the Simplicity pattern (5600) and sew these big, happy blobs. 

In the absense of a bedhead, they add a little more impact to the bed. See here for the room earlier this year. The beautiful yellow orchids are from my lovely local florist, The Flower Shed. They were moved from the living room for this photo. Normally, I keep fake hydrangeas here. Faux flowers, quelle horreur!

The cushions have envelope openings which is just as well because I'm still learning to insert zips in my new sewing class.

And here are the orchids in their real spot, looking so cheery with my Bali treasures on the table I painted. 

Can you tell I believe in looking for the sunshine in otherwise grey days? It's been a cold end to autumn, but I'm enjoying the bursts of falling yellow leaves in the streets and I love bringing other sunny hues inside to brighten our home. Hope your day is sunny and your heart warm :)

I'm linking to http://www.abeachcottage.com/

Friday, May 20, 2011

A twist on Nigella's Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Food has amazing power. Not only does it provide sustenance, bring people together and offer comfort, it can also win people over. I don't like to use bribery, but if it's in good fun, I admit to using food to strike deals with people. And so it is that I made these muffins from the Nigella Lawson book 'Kitchen' when I desperately needed to use a meeting room at a time another colleague had already booked it. Cooking from her recipes always makes me feel like a domestic goddess in training and I chuckle to myself at the vision of her sneaking into the fridge for a midnight snack.

I didn't have a few of the ingredients for these muffins so I made a few adaptations to the recipe. I used slivered almonds in place of unblanched ones and I didn't even have enough of these so I added some white chocolate bits for something different. Greek yoghurt was substituted for runny, natural yoghurt and plain flour was used in place of spelt flour at Nigella's suggestion. Yes, we're on first name basis. My colleague later declared these muffins the best he'd ever eaten so everyone was happy that day. Almost seemed pleased to relinquish the meeting room!

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins: Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen
(makes 12)

2 eating apples (peeled and cored then diced into 1cm pieces approx)
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
125g brown sugar plus 4 teaspoons for the topping
125ml honey
60ml Greek yogurt
125 ml flavourless vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 eggs
50g slivered almonds
50g white chocolate (I used small buds)

Preheat oven to 200C and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
  • Measure the flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon into a bowl. Add half the almonds and half the chocolate. To make the topping, put the other half of the almonds and chocolate into a small bowl with the second teaspoon of cinnamon and the four extra teaspoons of sugar.
  • Whisk together the 125g brown sugar, the honey, yoghurt, oil and eggs in another bowl or jug. 
  • fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Add the chopped apple, stirring to combine but don't overmix. Nigella says a lumpy batter makes for a lighter muffin.
  • Spoon the bumpy batter into the muffin cases, then spinkle the topping mixture over them. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven or until they are risen and golden. Let stand in the tray for 5 minutes before removing carefully and cooling on a wire rack.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cafe Love - Hardware Societe (again!)

Double love is not something I condone but I make exceptions where necessary. Not when it comes to infidelity in relationships people, I'm talking repeat visits to cafes and restaurants! So intent am I at trying new places, second visits are reserved for eateries within walking distance of home, work lunches where time and choice is limited, or places of particular note. The Hardware Societe falls in the latter grouping.

In a previous post, I swooned over the decor and vibe. You can read that here.

It has one of those menus that makes me wish for a metabolism that could handle 3 dishes in one sitting!

 Fried brioche, salted caramel, toasted peanuts, shiraz poached pears $14. So bad but so good.

The Continental - fresh figs, nut crumble, mango and pineapple ceviche, croissant, yoghurt $13

Loved the tang of the yoghurt and its presentation in a red-lidded jar.

On this particular visit, I was feeling quite rundown and a dose of The Hardware Societe was the perfect tonic. I miss working in the city when I think about this place. It's one of my happy places!

The Hardware Societe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Black and white lamp makeover

Thrifty Decor Chick is hosting a cyber spray paint party today so what better time than the present to reveal my lamps properly. I have written about picking them up on eBay and the sheer joy of using spray paint, so I won't go over that again (but you can read it here). Here is a quick summary:

The lamps as they came (from eBay for $46).

 The lamps (and the little covers on the right dangling on nails) in the front yard after the first coat.

After taking out the wiring, cleaning and sanding (but before the third and final coat).

 Then I stared at photos like these for awhile. I'd taken them before dismantling but it was still difficult to get the wiring back in place. The Mister was eventually called upon...

 The lamps on the dining table after putting on the shades and getting the wiring back in place.

A peek at one lamp in it's new home with the wiring returned and an Ikea shade fitted (from the Bali Treasures post). More pics to come later of with both lamps in the shot.

I may still add white trim at a later date. Too many other home projects to conquer at present, so no time for these fine details, as much as these little things do make a difference.

A word to the wise, do heed Thrifty Decor Chick's advice because I did get some crackling in a little patch after the final coat. Now I know this is because it was too hot to paint when I did. After doing all the prep (cleaning and sanding) and waiting between coats, it was disappointing. Thankfully, I can turn that side of the lamp to the wall and the little boo-boo is forgotten. As for the two tiny drip marks, I'm just putting those down to character. Every home needs some!

As for my next spraying project, one of my younger brother's is very handy and I am hoping he will offer to help his darling sister (ppft!) spray something a little more substantial than the lamps with a proper spray gun and compressor. They are a pair of French bistro chairs (sometimes called Bryant Park chairs), a hand-me-down from my Grandad. Currently they are grey with wooden slats and I'm trying to decide if they should become all red, all yellow, all turquoise or all white. Something like these (below) for our front verandah! Such joyful scenes.


Image via Lonny

spray paint party

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cafe Love - Cafe Fidama

Tapas plate: fried spanish olives, grilled chorizo, persian feta, seared squid and ciabatta $18
I heard Cafe Fidama was one of the best places to eat in Yarraville, then I heard it had really gone downhill so the only thing to do was to go and try it for myself. First I went for a coffee at lunchtime during the day. It was very quiet with just a few tables of guys in suits having a working lunch. The service and coffee are not to be faulted but the interior didn't really excite. Sparcely decorated, with the well-set tables the highlight. The darkish timber tables and exposed brick walls seem quite cold in the daytime.

The next visit was in the evening. Dim lighting gives warmth to the brick and brings the place to life. As does the full house. Nothing like bodies to create atmosphere!

One of the most pleasant surprises at Cafe Fidama is the amount of food made in-house, right down to the bread. We were told this by a waiter whose impeccable service and knowledge made this a fine dining venue in our eyes. Admittedly, I enjoyed being served by a male waiter over 40, as I don't find this to be very common. More than that, I enjoyed all the information he provided and his attentive service. As much as I ogle interiors, people and food really do make a venue.

Speaking of food, my main dish was heavenly. Slices of succulent duck breast on a bed of polenta mash with spinach and finished with a sweet sauce of beetroot pieces. Oh, the memory is making me salivate. Sadly, I can't find this dish on the menu online so it may have been a special. I would go back again for this. Price was around the same as the Mister's main from memory ($29) and worth every penny.

Oven roasted chicken breast with pan fried gnocchi, asparagus, chorizo and wild mushrooms $29

The mister enjoyed the chicken breast, though I think he had a case of food envy when he tried my duck. All my appreciative sighs wouldn't have helped his cause!

Home-made pineapple mint and strawberry sorbets $6

Such a pleasant time was being had that is seemed wrong not to try the home-made sorbets. I think it says something about a dish when it is half-eaten by the time the phone comes out for a photo! They were very good.

Cafe Fidama attracts discerning small groups and couples in their late 30s or 40s looking for good quality meal with excellent service for a special night out. This may be a rash generalisation and for that I apologise. It is somewhere I'd like to return for a business dinner or Mother's Day occasion. It has to be said that the interior, while pleasant enough, doesn't rate highly on the 'makes my heart sing' scale. Full marks for food and service, but when it comes to interiors/ambiance, I've become accustomed to the many foodie haunts that now put huge effort into 'wow' features and/or quirky touches. Pretty things probably designed to get prats like me in the door to hand over some of our double income that is not spent on kids. Somehow, this doesn't bother me. Pretty things make me happy. Amen to that.

Cafe Fidama on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Easy hunting on Charles Whyte

 Image via Stella Bella

I gotta little somethin' for ya. Trying to make life easier for you and all that. A little organisation is always the key to a less troublesome existence, freeing up time for the things we love. Plus, you know how I'm caught up hunting for the things that make my heart (and yours) sing, right?!

So, I've created some new pages for all of us to enjoy. You'll see them above. There's 'Recipes', 'Cafe Love', 'Painting projects' and 'Sewing projects'. You'll find links to all of the Charles Whyte blog posts related to these four categories on these pages, right back to when it started in December 2009. I hope this will make it easier for you to look back on old posts if you're so inclined. For me, it means I'll have an easy solution for Jackson when he calls (again) to ask how to make the white chocolate and hazelnut ball. Ditto for my sister and quince paste. Sadly, no-one has called to ask how I got the charcoal hall table to look so damn cute, but they might. I'll say "Go to the painting projects page on Charles Whyte and all will be revealed" and hopefully it's that easy for everyone. And if you happen to driving in country Victoria wondering where it was that I found those smashing pizzas in Kyneton, there will be no scrolling back through pages and pages of my ramblings. It will be as easy as going to the 'Cafe Love' page. 123. Yay! Enjoy, my sweets.

And while we are doing a little housekeeping, can I encourage you to do all something today to make someone else's heart sing. For an easy win you can subscribe to Charles Whyte by entering your email address in the sidebar at right or 'follow' using Google friend connect (button lower down in right sidebar)! I promise you my heart will be chirping sweet nothings all day long. A very happy day to you :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Treasures from Bali

Wow, we've nearly been back from our holiday a week and I haven't managed to write about any of my little finds yet, but here I am now. Bali surprised me in so many ways, some good, some less so. The best surprises were the cosmopolitan restaurants and the classy homewares stores. In hindsight, I should have spent a little more time doing nothing but there was so much to see and do. Not to mention a very beautiful wedding to attend and a bride to admire. I'm still kicking myself for getting all emotional and raspy during my reading :(

First trinkets to show off are the silver leaf dish above and the yellow beaded bracelets and necklace. The leaf dish came from a silver shop at the Seminyak end of Jl Raya Kerobokan, opposite the Geneva Handicraft Centre (less than AU$10 from memory). Beads from the Ubud markets for their lovely colour! I've worn them once so they might have a purpose other than adding some colour to our monotone living space.

This confused giraffe is my other find from the Ubud market and plays happily next to the TV when he's not pretending to be a zebra. The lady at the market told me he is a baby's toy, but I'm not letting that stop me. Big kids need toys too. He was AU$5-6. Note: new TV unit found on eBay just before we left. Yay, the hunt is over! Now need to convert some drawers to doors with hidden hinges so the DVD player etc can live inside.

I mentioned the Geneva Handicraft Centre before and this is where I found this carved, wooden tray stained black for 44,600 rupiah (just over $4.50 in Australian dollars). Located at Jl Raya Kerobokan No 100, this shop is basically a supermarket of everything you'd find at the markets in Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud. There is a lot of junk but it's nice to see price tags after days of bartering and it was very quiet (no crowds or atmospheric cries for your attention).

I'm using the tray to hold remote controls on our ottoman (painting of white legs in progress...see the masking tape?!). The zebra print coasters were found at Carrefour, a cheap French department store on Sunset Road, Kuta for 5000 rupiah each.

Next up is a piece of hand-woken ikat, the result of an extensive search. I had my heart set on yellow but I was twice told no-one in Bali likes yellow! So pink it is but I know there are lovers of sunny hues over there. All my inspiration pictures had one bright colour and white but in Bali this was impossible to find. The threads were always dyed in complimentary colours. I found this at a tiny factory on the way to Ubud - our kind driver worked very hard to find it for me:
Perusahaan Tenun Ikat Bali
"Wisnu Murti"
Jln. Pura Selukat Keramas, Gianyar

Like many things in Bali, it was hard to say whether this was a steal at 500,000 rupiah for 2.25 metres or we got taken for a ride. In any case, it was lovely to see where it was made by women toiling away on their wooden looms and it seems to be a genuine piece of quality ikat. Thinking of making some cushions with it for some colour on the couch, like so...

There were so many foodie and home finds that I didn't bother to look for clothes in Bali, but I did find a few little souvenirs of the personal variety. Some onyx earrings (a nod to the royal wedding that took place while we were away) from Seluk on the way to Ubud (300,000)...

And a bag from the Discovery Mall (299,000 approx). The obligatory fake sunnies from a nondescript stall in Seminyak (35,000 each).

Everything was so, so cheap that it made us feel bad at times. We realised how lucky we are to earn reasonable livings and call Australia home. I do love having little mementos of our holidays around the place though and I hope these remind me to be thankful for all that we have. Do you like to collect things from your travels? Is it a collection of a certain thing or something significant to that place? Or perhaps, like me, just anything that will work with your decor or wardrobe at home?

At a later date, I plan to post on some of the restaurants and housewares stores in Bali that really made my heart sing. 



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