Growing up in a small family unit means that when it breaks apart, the blow is a harder one to deal with. Having less people for the impact to disperse energy leaves each individual with a harder knock. This Christmas we travelled back to Melbourne to spend time with my family however the logistics of who sees who and when became even more complicated than ever before. My sister and I non-amicably parted ways in the lead up to my wedding, not my choice, and although time has passed the wounds still remain fresh for us both. To further complicate the issue, my parents are divorced which means we would normally spend Christmas with them each individually, dining with Dad on Christmas Eve and with Mum on Christmas Day.
Being estranged from my sister meant this usual arrangement would not be possible. Consequently, the plan was for the Boy and I to have Mum’s company for Christmas Eve whilst my sister spent time with our father, and then we would swap over for Christmas Day.
We organised to have Mum for the full day so I could maximise our time together, starting with a beautiful lunch booked at Stokehouse City. Being only minutes walk from where we staying it was the perfect location.
We both arrived laden with bulky gifts and beaming Christmas cheer smiles. I have laboured too long over the sadness of our family situation and am actively trying to move forward and embrace what moments I have with a positive mind.
Mum and the Boy started with the seared Harvey Bay scallops for entrée. This was an interesting mix of flavours with cauliflower purée, strawberries, macadamias and crisp pancetta.
I chose the steak tartare served with pickled shimeji mushrooms, horseradish and mascarpone. Plump, super sweet ruby grapes and wafery potato crisps garnished the dish. The beef was freshly diced and had a very clean aftertaste. This was a modern take of a classic done exceptionally well.
For our main course both Mum and I chose the John Dory fillet. I knew there was going to be some hard core feasting over the next few days and figured starting off eating light would be a kind way to ease my gut into it. The fish was tossed with peppery watercress, toasted almonds and local mussels and served on a bed of richly flavoured Romesco sauce.
The Boy ordered the O’Connor’s pasture fed beef tenderloin served perfectly rare to order and topped with a cascade of smashed roasted potatoes and herbs.
Feeling brief pangs of sadness that I wouldn’t be joining Mum for our traditional lunch at Vue de Monde the following day, I decided to push the boat out and managed to coerce her into ordering both cheese and desserts. I know, I know. I said I would stop this habit as I have put on too much weight this year but then isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
For dessert, we ordered the two gluten free options and shared them amongst the three of us. The lemon and raspberry Eton mess was like a garden of deliciousness with tumbles of fresh berries, champagne jelly and buttermilk ice cream. I nearly regretted electing to share as I savoured every mouthful.
Our second choice was “The Bombe”, Stokehouse’s take on a Bombe Alaska. It made a stunning sight although my drunken photography didn’t really do it justice. Sadly the toasted meringue tasted a bit too gluey and not very fresh. The meringue layered over a centre layer of strawberry sorbet and a white chocolate parfait base.
With full bellies and fuelled with champagne we exchanged our gifts before gathering them all up and walking over to the cinema to see a movie of Mum’s choice. It was late when the movie finished but knowing we wouldn’t get to see each other the following day none of us wanted this day to end. To finish the evening we travelled up to the Atrium Bar on level 35 at the Sofitel to enjoy a few nightcaps before finally bidding farewell and turning it in.
The following day was Christmas Day. Back in the day when I spent this with my sister, it would often be a day of extremes and drama; certainly not all bad but definitely not all good. Some people just don’t cope well under pressure and invariably I would end up bring the scapegoat for most of the day’s hiccups and problems.
Although it was sad and out of place to not be with Mum, this new way of doing Christmas Day was such a relaxed and chilled affair that it almost didn’t feel real.
We ate all day as one always does on Christmas; feasting on roasted goose, baked ham and the most addictive duck fat potatoes. But all this was done without a single element of drama.
Our hosts for the day were my Stepmum’s sister and her husband. My Stepmum’s sister is a master in the kitchen as well as also being the author of the blog Cioccolata Bella.
Everything was made from scratch using local seasonal produce where ever possible, much of it just from her backyard veggie patch.
There was even some gluten free mince pies and plum pudding for me to enjoy. In fact, another guest was Coeliac so there weren’t just token gluten free options, everyone was very mindful of avoiding contamination in the kitchen.
Reflecting back in the peace of mid-January, I appreciate that our return home for Christmas wasn’t what I am used to in years gone by yet despite this change I still got to spend quality time with those I love. And that is the most important thing.
7 Alfred Place, Melbourne, VIC 3000 | (03) 9525 5555 | stokehouse.com.au/city
Have you ever cooked a whole beef eye fillet? If you have you will understand what little effort it takes to produce a sumptuous meal. For those who haven’t this prosciutto wrapped beef fillet with pesto will convert you. Just make sure you buy ethically sourced meat!
- 14 slices of prosciutto (about 120 gm)
- 1 jar of pesto (I used a complementary jar of Roza’s Dairy Free Pesto)
- ½ cup raw cashews, chopped finely
- 1.5 kg piece of beef eye fillet
- Fresh basil to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Preheat oven to 200°C. Place 7 prosciutto slices in a row, side-by-side and slightly overlapping, to create a rectangle. Repeat with the remaining prosciutto slices, slightly overlapping, at the long side of the first rectangle.
- Mix the cashews and pesto together in a small bowl. Spread the pesto mix over the beef. Place the beef, dip-side down, on the prosciutto. Roll up to enclose the beef. Place the beef, seam-side down, in a roasting pan. Roast for 45 minutes for medium or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate. Cover with foil. Set aside for 10 minutes to rest. Top with basil.
Note: the original recipe can be found on www.taste.com.au and used Wattle Valley Baby Spinach with Cashew and Parmesan Chunky Dip
The Pesto used in this recipe was given free of charge by Roza’s Gourmet Sauces.
The recent plethora of online voucher deals has meant that even those on a budget can eat out on a regular basis for a considerably reduced cost. These experiences can tend to be a bit of hit and miss however and I have found that it pays to do your research on the restaurant prior to purchasing. Ultimately at the end of the day you get what you pay for and if your voucher only cost you fifty bucks for a two course meal for two people, don’t expect them to be cracking out the lobster and caviar! What I really like about these vouchers is that they often take you to establishments you never would have thought to eat at which can lead to some great discoveries.
I was recently given a Spreets voucher for Volcanic Stone Grill and Cafe in East Perth which included a two course meal for two. Before booking a table, I went onto Urbanspoon to see what sort of feedback other diners had given on their experiences there. The general consensus of the reviews was quite negative ranging from gripes about the service and attitude of staff right through to the poor quality of the food.
Do you remember what my awesome birthday gift from the Boy was? It was a fighter combat flight for two with Fighter Combat International. We each went up into the clear blue sky with our own pilots in CJ-6A Chinese Nanchang fighter planes and had an adrenaline filled mock fight in the sky! The day was absolutely perfect for it with clear blue skies across the full horizon. Before our skirmish our pilots show us each a series of acrobatic manoeuvres subjecting us to 4G force pressures while flipping and spinning us about in the air like a bird. It was such an incredible experience and for anyone who loved Top Gun it is a must do for your bucket list!
We headed out for dinner later that evening with our heads still spinning around and doing imaginary loop the loops. I had called in advance to find out they are BYO so we arrived well prepared with wine and beer in hand. The place was fully booked with tables both inside and out. It was a chilly night so I was glad to be shown to our table situated inside. The restaurant was starkly lit with fluorescent lighting and decorated with plastic plants and our rickety table wobbled on its hinges. Not really the most romantic or cosy place to go for dinner! However thankfully after the buzz of the experience up in the air neither of us minded the lack of surrounding atmosphere this time. On entering there was a faint smell of tainted meat in the air that was a little unpleasant but with a bit of time my sense of smell adjusted and the smell became less pungent.
We started with the Volcanic tasting plate which wasn’t included in our voucher. The plate normally comes with Turkish bread but as I requested gluten free this was replaced with a small serve of fries. The plate had a combination of a variety of meats accompanied with a hot “volcanic” stone which you cook your own meat on.
The meat was fairly average quality and without any oil to put on the stone it stuck during cooking. This was especially a problem with the chicken which had to be scraped off making it shred a little. We also found the heat of the stone dissipated too quickly and our last pieces of meat cooked quite slowly. Nevertheless it was a bit of fun cooking the meat together and was a definite novelty at the dinner table.
We both chose the Mix grill for our main dish. This dish contained single portions of beef fillet, chicken tenderloin, pork fillet & lamb with a field mushroom. Without a voucher, this dish would normally be priced at a fairly hefty $32.90. Not exactly value for money but I think the voucher was priced at $50 so for two mains and two desserts this makes it very good value. This dish was brought out with the meat already placed on the stone meaning that it was cooked before the stone’s heat subsided.
There were only limited choices for dessert as some of the menu had been blacked out with texta. We both chose the vanilla ice cream – mine with gummy bears and the Boy’s with choc chips. I thought the gummy bears were a cute touch but with only five gummy bears placed on my cold stone I thought this was a bit stingy. The ice cream was a little icy and tasted like the mass produced commercial stuff, no Connoisseur served here!
Overall we found our dining experience to be satisfactory. We arrived at the restaurant assuming that if the reviews I read where anything to go by we would receive poor service, horrible food and walk away disappointed. The reality was that although English did not appear to be the wait staff’s first language we were served promptly and without fuss. Our food was more than edible and I like the concept of the stone for something different. If we had not arrived with a voucher deal I would have been very reluctant to pay their menu prices however thanks to the voucher it worked out to be excellent value.
Like Me on Facebook!Volcanic Stone Grill and Café Shop 25, 60 Royal Street, East Perth 6004 | (08) 9221 1363 Price: $$$$ (Entrée $15-27, Mains $29-45: Without a voucher this place is WAY overpriced) Food: 5.5/10 (great novelty idea would be better with quality meat cuts) Service: 2.5/5 (no fuss but no frills) Ambience: 1.5/5 (fairly absent) Drinks: N/A – BYO Total: 9.5/20