Public Service Announcement

We apologise for the dearth of blog entries over recent weeks. Our esteemed colleague, Scott, tragically broke his wrist when the fashionably teeny tiny tyre on his fixie got stuck in a Gertrude street tram track and he flew over the handlebars. The time it would have taken one of us to write up our delicious Friday feasts was spent cutting up Scott’s sandwiches.

B

Weird meal at De Clieu with soft boiled egg and pork fluff

Weird shit

I have to admire De Clieu’s dedication to putting weird and wonderful stuff on their menu. Mostly the menu changes with the seasons (porridge in winter, muesli in spring) which can be kinda dull, but over the past few months I’ve noticed a willingness to experiment…the odd brekky special (odd being the operative word).

Oddness aside, changing things on menus gets me in and so it was that I stopped by to try De Clieu’s latest crazy invention – mushroom polenta, pork fluff, parsnip purée, zucchini and rocket pickle avec soft boiled panko crumbed egg … Ermagerrrd!

It didn’t quite work. The pork fluff wasn’t porky enough, the parsnip purée a bit cool, the mushroom polenta a little too polenta-y, but I loved the panko egg and the zucchini and rocket pickle. There also probably needed to be some toast. Just sayin’. But full points for having a go, not something you can say about too many cafés with such devoted clientele!!!

J

Po' Boy Quarter deep fried shrimp sandwich box

Po’ Boy Quarter: Smith Street’s Most Giant Sandwiches

Po’Boy Quarter
295 Smith Street
Fitzroy
http://gumbokitchen.com.au/

Among the latest crop of storefronts contributing to the gentrification of the half-Fitzroy, half-Collingwood Smith St is Po’ Boy Quarter – Gumbo Kitchen’s new permanent, wheel-less cousin to their eponymous roving food truck.

Po’ Boy continues the New Orleans theme with a menu solely consisting of “po’ boy” sandwiches – giant, crusty subs filled with an array of fried, barbecued and slow cooked meats (and the odd veg option of course). The name allegedly originated in the late 1920s when New Orleans street-car workers were on strike – two former workers-come-restaurateurs put on free sandwiches for the local strikees, dubbed the “poor boys” for obvious reasons, and the name stuck – albeit to the sandwiches. The Louisianan accent did the rest.

Po’ Boy’s po’ boys are massive. That has to be said outright. Sure, the decor is a nice, if not expected, mix of recycled tiles, exposed brick and rough sawn timber, but to be perfectly honest the first thing that struck me about the place was the size of their sandwiches. They are gargantuan. They don’t fit in your average sandwich bag. They come in a box.

I went for the deep fried shrimp with coleslaw, and B decided the barbecue pulled pork was her cup of tea. Jay was back and forth between the two, but eventually settled on the shrimp as well. In the interest of balance, we bought Judy a pork sandwich and fries to share. Other options included slow-cooked beef ‘debris’ and deep fried tomatoes for the vegetable-inclined.

Po Boy Quarter bbq pork sandwich
The pulled pork po’ boy isn’t for the faint of heart – or patients suffering lockjaw.

Getting your mouth around one of these is no simple task. We all resorted to picking off the top first – the deep fried shrimp were crispy and delicious, dressed in a ridiculously good mayonnaise of some description, while the pulled pork was drenched in a barbecue sauce that gave me instant food envy (I’ve since been back and can confirm that the pork is my current favourite).

Balancing things out for us was a rugged coleslaw with apple, while the porkys got a mixed salad in theirs. To our collective surprise, we all discovered a giant, whole pickle lurking at the base of our sandwiches, all of which were devoured with gusto.

I can’t even remember what the fries were like, but suffice to say they tasted delicious when dipped in the pork sauce. In saying that, I could eat just about anything like that.

The only complaint was the quality of the bread – considering the number of quality bakeries locally, the bread was not as fresh and soft as it could have been. A minor gripe though, and we’ll chalk that up to either teething problems or perhaps a faithfulness to the true ‘po’ boy’ aesthetic.

Shop Ramen

When a 10 day only, handmade ramen pop-up shop popped up on Smith Street this year, I talked about it nonstop, basically making my workmates lives a living hell, plotting when we would go and what we would eat. The day it opened, my buddy Moses humored me by coming and standing in a line of smug hipsters for half an hour and ending up ramen-less because they ran out of tables. I did sneak down mid afternoon of the same day to eat a bowl of Tonkatsu ramen and it was lovely but I was pushed for time, probably didn’t pay it the attention it deserved and so ended, anti-climactically, my pop up ramen adventure. Or did it?? For yea and verily it is that the pop up ramen people have popped up on Smith Street again, this time in their own permanent home near the corner of Johnston Street.

A bare bones kind of operation, the space has a light inviting feel, a few piney looking tables dotted around the room with one long communal table the focal point. Noodles are turned out on a pasta machine operated by the girl taking orders, little nests of dough resting on the bench behind her. And they are delicious!

The menu is small, offering 3 kinds of ramen – Dan Dan (brisket, seaweed, celery, broth, ramen, soft boiled egg, peanuts), Tonkatsu (pork belly), cashew veggi ramen to provide the obligatory vego option, as well as a David Chang style steamed pork belly bun with pickle and a tofu bun. They have a couple of shakes on offer but I can only remember the salted caramel because I’m a salted caramel freak. They also offer one dessert, a combination of licorice and other stuff that was compelling in its weirdness.

We ordered one Dan Dan, two Shoyu and a squishy David Chang bun and left happy and full and, well, a bit gloaty! One of my envious workmates went back today and it was shut – the howls of devastation could nearly be heard back on Gertrude Street.

Shop Ramen – get amongst it. 329 Smith Street, Collingwood.

Martha Ray’s

20130917-230106.jpg

Martha Ray’s. Drawn in initially by the promise of a Melbourne-top-ten-sandwich, I keep going back because their breakfast is EXCELLENT. I can’t go past the soft boiled eggs on sourdough with streaky bacon and zucchini pickle. Also the consistently good coffee – the permanent line for takeaways attests to that. Service is sweet too. Mmm mmmm!

Martha Ray’s
85 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy

Burch & Purchese wagon wheel purchased from Jimmy Grant's

Darren Purchese: Circling the wagons

Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio
647 Chapel Street
South Yarra
http://www.burchandpurchese.com/

I could talk about how Rick, Orson and I went back to Jimmy Grants to re-experience the lamby goodness of a Mr Papadopoulos souva, the herby deliciousness of the grain salad, all finished off with sticky honey and cinnamon drizzled Greek doughnuts…but I won’t. It’s not really about that.  What I want to talk about is the wagon wheel I bought from Jimmy’s and took home in my pocket!

Made by Darren Purchese, owner and pastry chef of Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio in South Yarra (supposedly quite the thing), he is supplying wagon wheels and chocolate fudge bars to JG’s.  When I say supplying, I really mean dealing.  Dealing the crack.  For it is that addictive.

One wagon wheel for the girlfriend, one for me.

We settled back onto the couch after the sick kids had gone to bed (kind of – TJ was still shrieking down the hall) and unwrapped it without any idea what to expect. It turned out to be an eye popping combination of crisp chocolate biscuity goodness, fluffy raspberry marshmallow, salted peanut butter (did I mention the SALTED PEANUT BUTTER)  a dense coating of chocolate and crushed roasted peanuts.  All in a biscuit way too big for anyone trying to maintain any semblance of good health. It truly seemed to get bigger the longer I ate it. It was too much and too good. I found myself mystified and horrified in equal measure but compelled to eat on.

Dear god. The salted peanut butter. Just ridiculous!  Ridiculously good.

J

The Perfect Souvlaki – it’s pure mathematics.

Mathematicians and physicists across the ages have attempted to explain the universe and all it contains. In their spare time, they bent their minds to an equally complex task – to develop a mathematical theorem for the ‘Perfect Souvlaki’.

First postulated in ancient Greece and attributed to Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), who was heard to utter the words;

 “I have defined ‘motion’, yet, I do not know how I spilled souvlaki on my shirt!

The mathematical theorem for the Perfect Souvlaki has been as elusive as the Higgs Boson particle. Many theories have been put forward and ridiculed, in much the same way as Galileo was by the Pope, climate scientists by Tony Abbot and James Hird by Caroline Wilson (or vice versa)….. until now!

Rickous of Centre of Excellence has published his now proven theorem for the Perfect Souvlaki (PS):

Mass of souva plus Volume of sauce

Divided by,

Molecular structure of bag plus Rate of consumption*

Must equal the PS (or enjoyment factor) value of 1

Or, as an expression:

(M + V) ÷ (S + R) = 1

*Note – Rate of consumption (RC value) is affected by another set of variables – flavour combination, tenderness of lamb and perfectness of bread.

All PS values greater than 1 convert to, and are known as, the ‘Spill on Shirt (SOS)’ values. These ‘SOS’ values being greater than 1 do not equal the enjoyment factor of 1 and point to an inferior souvlaki.

All PS values less than one convert to, and are known as, the ‘Stuck in Throat’ values. These ‘Stuck in Throat’ values being less than 1 do not equal the enjoyment factor of 1 and also suggest the presence of an inferior souvlaki.

As in life, all must be in balance.

We test the theorem by consuming the ‘Mr Papadopoulos’ souva from Jimmy Grant’s – the gastronomic souvlaki equivalent of the CERN Super Collider. Let’s do the math (all scores out of 10);

  • Mass of Souva – while appearing small was curiously filling with the addition of chips – 10
  • Volume of sauce – the addition of mustard was risky but was used sparingly and volume proved perfect – 10.
  • Molecular structure of bag – large enough to control souva but dense enough to contain wayward sauce – 10
  • Rate of Consumption – flavour combination was judged as perfect, as was the beautifully cooked lamb. The bread was light but wrapped around the filing like warm doona on a cold day – 10

10 +10 / 10+10 = 1. Eureka!!!

Unlike the elusive Higgs Boson particle that has been theorised but not observed, the perfect souva can be observed and indeed consumed at Jimmy Grant’s, David St, Fitzroy. You can pick holes in the theorem but I defy you to pick holes in the Mr Papadopoulos souvlaki!

R

Label on the Jimmy Grant's bag - "there's a little bit of Jimmy in everyone"

Jimmy Grant’s: The Best Souvlaki in Melbourne?

UPDATE: R has offered an insight into what makes Jimmy’s the perfect souvlaki.

Jimmy Grant’s might just make the best souvlaki in Melbourne.

I know that’s a big call, but after today’s Foodie Friday you’ll find one office full of people who’ll agree. To illustrate, instead of a regular blog post, we’ve asked everyone who sampled their Greek delicacies to contribute a sentence on the topic below.

A quick background – Jimmy Grant’s is yet another brainchild of George Calombaris, perhaps Australia’s most recognisable chef. Whatever your opinion of MasterChef (I’m sure that I’m in the minority of people who don’t consider it a religion), or even of George’s establishments to date (some of us have mixed views on Hellenic Republic’s service), you would have to have a heart of stone, and tastebuds of ash, to not enjoy the souvlakis that dominate the menu at his new takeaway joint.

Our first attempt to visit was shut down rather unceremoniously when we were informed last Friday that they weren’t yet open for lunch, only evenings. A further full week of anticipation came to a close this Friday when we successfully phoned in an order of:

  • 4 ‘Mr Papadopolous’ lamb souvlakis
  • 3 ‘The Bonegilla’ combination souvlakis
  • 1 ‘The Patris’ prawn souvlaki
  •  3 Cypriot grain salads
  • 1 Jimmy’s dimmys

All in all, it was incredible. I’ll leave the rest to my dear colleagues to froth over.

B: If there is but one truth I have learned during my time in the matrix it is that gourmet food is always smaller. The more you spend on your food, the smaller it will be and the gooder it will be also. Jimmy Grant’s proves this rule and does so without breaking the bank. I’m not going to lie, on first impressions I was a little bummed when I received the teeny tiny little package of souvlaki from Jimmy’s, as I, like so many, have been brainwashed to think that souvis are above all about value for money, and are destined to rot half-eaten in the fridge for the following week and a half before the overwhelming reek of garlic is shifted by your housemate into your unassuming neighbour’s green bin. Luckily, Jimmy’s souvi ended up being the absolute perfect size and I ate it all in one hit. It wasn’t too heavy, the lamb was tender, the mayo was mustardy, I didn’t feel sick afterwards (yes, it’s always the souv and not the beer that pushes me over the edge), and the garlic hadn’t been sitting in lockup for five weeks before getting used. Pretty damn awesome.

J: The lamb, the LAMB!!!  So tender. The chicken!  The chips!  And all wrapped up in a parcel of puffy pillowy pita goodness TOGETHER!  Genius. The grain salad, oh holy mother of salads with your fresh coriander and parsley sweet currant loveliness and thick greek yoghurt…I love this souva so much it could be my new girlfriend. I’m all out of superlatives.

M: I was the eater of the Patris and would describe this souva as a pocket rocket – an explosion of culinary flavours, bigger enough to satisfy and delightfully without  repeated aftertastes.

O: Sublime combination of tender lamb and chips with a hint of mustard puts this in the pantheon of greatest souvlakis I have ever tasted!

R was not available for comment – perhaps because it rendered him speechless, or because he had deadlines due this week. I guess we’ll never know.

EDIT: As previously noted, R has contributed an entire article to his Jimmy Grant’s experience.

S

Tacky ketchup and an overpriced $8 salad from La Parisienne charcuterie, Lygon Street.

La Foodie Friday #FAIL: La Parisienne Pâtés

La Parisienne Pâtés
290 Lygon Street
Carlton
https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Parisienne-P%C3%A2t%C3%A9s/138406699555975

An hour after the last, miserable crumbs had been wiped from the squeaky laminex kitchen table and from the bright green plastic chairs that appeared even more ghastly after such an inadequate lunch, I got an apology from my boss. She wanted me to know that, even though it had been at my suggestion, she didn’t blame me for the Foodie Friday fail. She had just been really upset, disappointed and hungry, and it’d taken her an hour to get over it.

To be fair, we didn’t get off to a good start. Amidst the carnage of annual reports, our Foodie Friday research which usually starts on Monday had fallen by the wayside, and we’d had to make a desperate last-minute decision. At my suggestion, we chose La Parisienne Pâtés on Lygon St – a French charcuterie and delicatessen abundantly filled with cured meats, cheeses, terrines, pâtés and macarons.

Although I had been there before and had been moderately happy with the homemade burgundy pie I received, this time there were omens. Charlotte said she had thought it was average and didn’t recommend it. Rick’s car, the Foodie Friday transportation unit, was blocked in by City West Water labourers in the back lane, and when we did finally get out and drove up to Lygon Street we had to drive around the block twenty times before finding a park. Really, we should have given up there and then.

When we finally made it to the deli, we were met with a plentiful display of deliciousness. We sampled the salami and sopresa. Delicious. We sampled the homemade terrine. Divine! Thank goodness, we thought, we’re onto a good thing. How wrong we were. We promptly ordered four burgundy pies, a chicken and mushroom pie, two baguettes with rabbit terrine and cornichons, a tiny salad (i.e. lettuce) which cost $8, a chocolate éclair and a piece of lemon tart. While they put everything in bags, Scott went all the way down Lygon Street, ordered two coffees, waited til they got made and came back. Perfect timing *cough*. There was no homemade relish to go with the homemade pies so we took with us some ordinary tomato sauce in plastic containers for 50c a pop.

Piling back into Rick’s car, I (quite logically, I thought) popped the plastic bag full of Foodie Friday anticipation onto the baby seat for safekeeping. We set off back to work with empty stomachs and lead feet. Unfortunately Rick’s lead foot meant he also had to slam his foot on the brakes which sent one of the baguettes in the Foodie Friday bounty flying onto the floor and spreading its insides far and wide. Amidst our cries and utterances, I promptly gathered the fallen soldier back up and popped the innards back into the bread roll. Brilliant work, I thought. Judy will be none the wiser.

We hopped out of the car, dodging stray pickles and clearing up spilt tomato sauce, sidestepped a syringe (no needle stick injuries) and traipsed back into work where our colleagues eagerly awaited us. Unfortunately…

The pies were cold. As in, they hadn’t been heated.

We put them in the crappy work kitchen oven thing.

We burnt the tops of the pies.

Their insides were cold.

They were mostly pastry.

They averaged four measly pieces of meat each.

The baguettes were sans butter and therefore dry.

Jay cried.

The lemon tart and éclair were alright and the homemade terrine filling the baguettes was perfectly rich and flavoursome, but it was pretty hard to make concessions after such a bitter and unforgiving disappointment.

So, our first Foodie Friday #FAIL. All in all a disappointing experience, though more so for some than others.

B

Croffins and croissants from Lune Croissanterie

Lune Croissanterie and the ‘croffin’: The dossant has some competition

Lune croissants via Everyday Coffee
33 Johnston Street
Collingwood
http://lunecroissanterie.com

Something important is happening, people. Are you tuned in? Can you feel it? I’ve heard folks talking about the ‘new wave’; a shift in consciousness. Some have referred to it as a global awakening: a divine coalescing of peoples, a merging of cultures, an evisceration of national borders. Whatever you want to call it, people, it’s here. It’s real. It’s now.

Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago Fitzroy Foodie Fridays introduced you briefly to the ‘dossant’ – an inspired cross-cultural hybrid between that buttery French delicacy, the croissant, and the equally delicious fried bread with a hole, the donut, that (according to Wikipedia) originated in the US. The dossant (or cronut) is a revolutionary combination – a bringer of peace, a bastion of love! When eaten, a true phenomenon occurs: the complete dissolution of stress, argument and bad blood between gobbling parties. Oh, and composure. Forget war! You are eating a dossant.*

Today, the Fitzroy Foodie Friday crew discovered yet another world-shattering pastry combination: le croffin. Yes, you guessed it – that would be the croissant crossed with a muffin. Slightly heavier than your average croissant (there’s the muffin influence right there) this was light, filled with lemon curd and utterly delicious. I’d go so far as to say genius. And in actual fact, as I understand, the genius of a former aeronautical engineer and Formula 1 race car developer who flew to Paris to undertake a pastry apprenticeship and who now runs Lune Croissanterie in Elwood.

“So”, I hear you ask, “which is better? Le dossant or le croffin? Is this not the most difficult decision of your life?!” Yes, it may be a dang hard gig. However, after weighing up the virtues of each in a particularly painstaking and scientific manner**, I’ve concluded that…wait…wait…the croffin is even better than the dossant.

Unfortunately for me, completely inconsistent with this blog entry’s poorly thought-through line of argument, my verdict caused a bit of an office brawl.

B

* Please note that holes may appear in this argument if you take my dossant. They will, however, be berry coulis-filled holes.

** Not peer-reviewed.