Saturday, 25 August 2012

Bellbrae Harvest - a splendour of local produce

Looking for a restaurant the celebrated local harvest, we stumbled upon Bellbrae Harvest (thank goodness for the AGFG).

This restaurant is about 20 minutes inland from Torquay, off the main road where the darkness feels so heavy you can feel it cloaked over you. There are no lights along the dirt road and googlemaps seems to cut out at the critical point, where to turn next... But finally we made it! A little mudbrick house next to a pond, you are welcomed by fairy lights and the sounds of frogs "rib-biting" away.

Bellbrae Harvest opened 3 years ago and has won 2 Golden Plate awards, for their creative use of molecular cuisine intertwined with seasonal, fresh local produce.

The drinks menu encapsulates the local craft breweries and wineries and our host Dave is excellent at describing their flavours to us.

While we are perusing the menu we are served freshly baked bread with olive oil (grown down the road) and in-house dukkah. I am already salivating at the thought of what the rest of the meal will be like.

Ocean trout sashimi bathed in apple vodka with flying wasabi roe, picked ginger, yoghurt spheres and locally grown winter leaves. (I think there is also a modern prawn cracker there too)
The sashimi had fresh and clean texture in contrast to the crunchy prawn cracker.
The wasabi roe and yoghurt sphere had a gentle taste and didn't draw away from the trout.

Portarlington mussles steamed in champagne and cream with leeks and dried red pepper
Perfectly cooked mussels with slightly crunchy leek. 
A rich dish with strong, bitterness from the red pepper and paprika. A dish not for everyone, but still enjoyable.

12 hour cured duck breast, rhubarb and Drysdale fetta puddings
chorizo croquettes and zucchini ribbons

Seriously, FEAST your eyes on this!
The winning dish of the evening. It still makes me salivate and feel so warm and cozy just thinking of this. This dish is well balanced, flavoursome and a truly interesting experience to eat.

The duck breast is tender and juicy, lined with crispy, duck skin. The croquettes are the smoothest, mash potato cased in a crunchy exterior that I have ever had. It was like pure silk in your mouth.

To balance out the strong flavours of the duck and croquettes, they are accompanied by these cute little rhubarb cylinders that are soft and jelly like with the salty cheese inside.

Pan fried local snapper with pearl barley, potato and 
lemon myrtle 'risotto' cuttlefish and freeze dried garlic chips

Again, perfectly seared snapper with soft yet resilient barley. An interesting take on risotto.

Sourcream cheesecake with sous-vide strawberries, black olive sherbet, al dente tapioca
and Anglesea lavender praline

This is a dish that stimulates your senses - the beauty of the crystalline praline that sits above the bed of cheesecake, the gentle smell of lavender with each bite and chewy tapioca is contrasted with the soft cream cheese and sweet and pungent sous-vide strawberries.

Salted caramel creme brûlée, black sesame and cherry sponge and liquified popcorn bubbles

This photo and dish seems so plain and simple.
But in fact it was a winning dessert.
The salted creme brûlée was everything I expected, sweet, salty and creamy!!
But... the popcorn bubbles was light and frothy and truly tasted like hot popcorn
this is followed by the cherry sponge cake with plays with your mind... the texture is kind of like what i would imagine soft popcorn to be like...

Bellbrae Harvest has topped the list of best restaurants I have been too!
Worth the drive in the dark, worth travelling to Torquay and worth every cent!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Great Ocean Road (that takes you to a world full of indulgence)

Visiting the 4 Apostles (nee 12 Apostles) was a beautiful moment, reminding myself that this world still some some natural beauty left. It is incredible what nature can create.
Other incredible wonders of nature, is the celebrated produce of the Great Ocean Road.
The winding roads between Lorne to Apollo Bay to Princetown, I was lucky to take in the fresh air with scents of spring wattle and see a lot of what Australia is proud to produce.
Otway beef, Apostle whey cheese, Apollo Bay fishing co-cop, craft breweries and berry farms...
Places I wish that I had the time to see all, but only lucky to visit a few.

Not far from the Apostles we found Apostle Whey Cheese. A "cheesery" (?) owned and run by a couple and a friend who hand make all of their cheeses. There are dairy cows behind the cheese factory, and I'm guessing they might have a hand in these cheeses! 
We are greeted by a lovely, friendly woman who loves her cheese. We try about 10 different types of cheese from brie to havarti to fetta... all designed by owners and learn it takes upto 15 hours on "Cheese making day" to develop these fine, full bodied beauties. 

We went with the chill and garlic fetta and made it into spaghetti al olio! Beautiful!


Further down the road, we stopped in Colac to find a light bite. We found the Trocadeo cafe.
Not much is open on a Sunday afternoon and we definitely weren't expecting... 
BACLAVA HEAVEN!! There was an entire glass cabinet filled with Balaclava and other arab sweets... maaannn... how can you resist this?

 3 for $5 (bargain!) Pistacchio baclava
Regular baclava

Not sure, but looks good!

Other sweets that filled the glass cabinets... seriously, this is where you score a quality sugar hit!

Oh... and this is what I ordered after snapping out of baclava heaven...

~$8 Cheese and Spinach triangle - served with rice, potato, salad and beans with a mouth watering, olive and vinegar dressing. 
Perfectly seasoned so it literally makes your mouth water as it hits your tongue!

I was expecting it to be processed and oily. But far from my expectations. It was fresh and was made from unprocessed ingredients. Not bad Colac...

stay tuned for part 2...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Strawberries and Cream

What a splendid treat for afternoon tea!

This is a super easy recipe and takes no time at all to make!
The icing isn't too sweet and has a silky texture.
Thanks Tasty Pursuits for your delicious recipe!

Makes ~12 cupcakes.
2 cups (218 grams) cake flour
1 cup (220 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg*, room temperature
Cream Frosting8 ounces cream cheese, cold
1/3 cup strawberry jam
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups heavy cream, cold
5 strawberries, rinsed dried and quartered
Preheat the oven to 180*C. Place 12 cupcake liners in muffin tins.
In a large bowl, whisk together by hand the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly combined.
Whisk in the heavy cream, canola oil and vanilla until just combined. Do not overmix the batter; otherwise, the cake will be tough.
Whisk in the egg until just combined.
Scoop the batter into the muffin tins so that they are 2/3 full. Bake for 12 – 13 minutes (7 – 9 minutes for mini cupcakes) until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs (not wet batter) attached to it. If the toothpick comes out clean, remove the cupcakes from the oven immediately. Overbaking cupcakes makes them dry and tough.
Cool the cupcakes for 30 minutes – 1 hour before frosting.
To make the frosting:
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with a paddle attachment on medium until it is fluffy. Beat in the jam, vanilla and sugar until just combined.
Switch to a whisk attachment and reduce the speed to medium-low. Add the heavy cream in a slow steady stream.
Increase the speed to high and whip until the frosting is fluffy and slightly stiff. Do not over whip, otherwise it will look curdled.
Frost the cupcakes and top each one with a quarter of a strawberry.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>