After over 150 posts of me talking about myself I want to hear about you! I want to hear the all time best foodie experiences of you guys – my foodvixen readers. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive – the best meals are often the cheapest meals! For me food is all about the experience – who you dined with, where you dined or what you ate. It doesn’t have to be overseas, it could be a memorable picnic on the Cairns Esplanade or fish and chips at Palm Cove… Whatever is it I want to hear about it! For those of you that have followed my blog some of you might remember me recounting my top foodie experiences in previous posts but for those of you that missed it, I’ll recount one more time in the hope of unlocking some of your top foodie experiences.
1. Peking Duck in Beijing – I travelled to China for the first time in 2006 and as part of the tour we were on my family and I ended up at a restaurant in the heart of Beijing. I had never had Peking Duck before – the world famous dish that actually originates from Beijing and was first prepared during the Imperial era – nor did I know what it entailed. The duck was sliced in front of our table by the chef and then the waitresses showed us how to eat it with spring onions, cucumber, sweet bean sauce all wrapped up in a little pancake. The thin and crispy skin of the duck was out of this world and to this day I still dream about returning to Beijing to eat their amazing Peking Duck.
2. Oysters in Florida – Before the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – 2004 to be exact. My family and I did an RV tour of the USA and we stopped in at the Eastpoint Oyster House in Florida for some fresh seafood. There is nothing my family loves more than fresh seafood – apart from my sister who only just discovered wine (yes she hasn’t quite grown up yet). We bought 12 dozen oysters to eat between three of us – me, mum and dad. The oysters were only US$3.99 a dozen if you shucked them yourself. Having owned a seafood factory for many years my dad was and still is no stranger to shucking oysters. He would also tell you he once won a prawn peeling competition against the prawning peeling ladies that worked at his factory. What he won’t tell you is that he cheated and those ladies should have beat him hands down. Anyway we sat out of the front of the Eastpoint Oyster House on a rickety old table overlooking the Apalachicola Bay, surrounded by mountains of discarded old oyster shells and ate dozens of Apalachicola Bay oysters straight from the shell with savoury biscuits, hot sauce and lemon. Absolute bliss.
3. Chicken Biryani in Colombo – I travelled to my mother’s birth country in 2011 where I did a three week Intrepid tour with my cousin. The first day that we arrived in Sri Lanka we found ourselves at a rundown little restaurant on the main strip not far down from the famous Galle Face Hotel. We had no idea what to order so we pointed to what everyone else was having which turned out to be the best Chicken Biryani of my life for all of about 200 rupees (about AU$2). Although I was the only female in there the owner made us both feel very welcome, in fact he was beside himself with excitement at having some Australian tourists dine at his humble roadside restaurant. It was the perfect beginning to what was an amazing 3 week adventure in Sri Lanka.
4. Stand up noodles in Osaka – Tachigui soba is a fast food that is unique to Japan and literally means ‘standing up eating’ soba noodles. I first travelled to Japan in 2009 where my friends and I stumbled upon a tiny Tachigui soba bar in the Osaka suburb of Fukushima (no not that Fukushima). The four of us crammed into the noodle bar on a cold and wet day and slurped our steaming hot bowls of noodles with a couple of friendly Japanese business men who found it all highly amusing. It was my first introduction to stand-up noodles and I made sure that I returned to this very place in my most recent trip to Japan in November last year.
Others moments worth a mention are gobbling up cherries the size of a baby’s fist at the Salamanca Markets in Hobart, baby back ribs in a dingy bar in Nashville, a birthday picnic organised by my love MS and courtesy of Davy at Mama Coco at Lake Eacham, a 10 course degustation atop the Rialto in Melbourne at Vue De Monde also with my love, xiao long bao amongst Chinese breakfast-goers in Shanghai and fish and chips on Bondi Beach in Sydney. I could go on forever here because I have had some truly memorable foodie moments in my travels. As you can tell I love food and I love travel but this was only supposed to be a relatively short post. Now it’s over to you x
A couple of weeks ago I was on a roll with my posts, putting up 2 in 2 weeks (a hell of a lot better than I have managed to achieve in the last 6 months) but alas it was to be short lived for my Toshiba Ultrabook had other plans and decided to shit itself for the third time in a year and a half. Yes, I have had to replace the hard drive on three separate occasions in this time period (it’s still under warranty) and apparently it has to die one more time before they (JB Hifi’s Extended Warranty Service) will replace it. Fml. But how ridiculous is that?! 4 frigin times?!!!! So I apologise but without a laptop I’m pretty much useless as my handwriting has never been the same since it died a slow and painful death in my uni lecture days. What’s that you say? Get a Mac? No thanks. I’ll be damned if I ever get a Mac. PC for life! Moving on.
So, finally… Day Two of our adventures in Melbourne were meticulously planned by moi. It was MS’ 30th birthday the following day and I had a few things in store for the birthday boy. Firstly after doing some reading on Urbanspoon for the best places to head for breakfast we headed to Manchester Press. Initially I really wanted to go to the Hardware Societe but they were closed down over that period due to significant fire damage from the tenancy next door (they are unfortunately still closed). Never-the-less Manchester Press was supposed to be good too.
Manchester Press is another one of those places hidden down the laneway that Melbourne is renowned for. The only reason that you really even know there is something down there is because you see a random person holding a takeaway coffee cup emerge from what you thought was a deserted laneway. We found it no problem thanks to an amazing thing called ‘the internet’. Inside was a large warehouse type café bustling with early morning breakfast goers and the clinking of plates and coffee cups in the kitchen. We sat down at a communal table – something that seems all the rage in Melbourne and something I wish was more the rage in Cairns while the waitress brought us some water and menus.
As I said I had already researched Manchester Press so I knew what kind of food we were in for but MS was most disappointed when he realised that the menu was pretty much made up of bagels. No giant sized man breakfast or pancakes with bacon, much to his dismay. I pretended that I had no idea that that’s all they served but secretly I knew full well because I came here for the Bagel with thick sliced pastrami, sliced tomato, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing (pretty much a Reuben for all those MVF lovers out there). Guess the cats out of the bag now, well maybe not since MS never reads my posts anyway… Ahem.
MS who had decided on the BLAT (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Tomato) topped with Cranberry and Chilli Plum Relish got his back up even more about only having bagels for breakfast when he asked the waitress if he could add an egg and her response was ‘I’m sorry, no’. Apparently you can’t make any changes to the bagels at Manchester Press. All good. Our coffee’s arrived and they were excellent – although I’m no coffee connoisseur. Manchester Press is one of those cafés vying for the best coffee in Melbourne but then again I’m pretty sure every café in Melbourne has the best coffee. The only drawback to the coffee at MP is I am pretty sure they only had take away coffee cups, no mugs. I could be wrong though. Not long after our coffees arrived had our bagels arrived.
My bagel was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, pastrami and swiss cheese are easily a combo made in heaven. It was a good bagel, and an even better choice on my behalf, although it still didn’t live up to my ‘fresh bagels in Manhattan for breakfast experience’ a few years ago. I don’t think anything other than the real thing will ever top that but this ‘Australian version’ would more than suffice in the meantime.
MS’ BLAT had a generous serving of avocado and bacon on it and he soon forgot his hang-ups about not having a ‘man-sized’ breakfast and the lack of egg. He later said that it was nice not being ridiculously full after breakfast for once. Lucky for him because we still had lots of eating to do.
After breakfast we headed off towards Elizabeth Street with MS having no idea where we were going. Soon enough we miraculously ended up at a strip of motorbike shops that MS decided he wanted to go and have a look inside. No, that was not part of my plan at all. He soon realised that was exactly where I was taking him and he spent the rest of the morning choosing a motorbike helmet and gloves as my early birthday present to him.
Three hours later we were still in there and lucky for me there was a chair for me to sit on and Instagram my little heart away – at least for the first hour and a half anyway. Then I started to get impatient and in the end I gave MS a time limit or I would be walking out without him (Hey! It wasn’t his birthday yet). Shopping with MS is extremely painful – you should see him try to choose a pair of runners at Rebel Sport! FFS… We finally left and headed to the next stop on our food journey – the one place that I had so eagerly awaited/anticipated/salivated ever since I read about it in The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar’s blog – Wonderbao.
It was a little hard to find but we found it tucked away at the end of an alley way. On Urbanspoon someone said to look for the green milk crates. Yeah well we found those and then still had no bloody idea where the hell it was. We looked down the alley way and all we saw was some scaffolding and builders. Then, low and behold, we saw someone scurry out of a doorway down the end with a takeaway coffee cup. Bingo! Inside it was like what my dreams are made of – bamboo steamers stacked high with baos! We ordered two Braised Pork Belly Gua Bao with Pickled Mustard Coriander and Crushed Peanuts (AU$4.20 each), two Roast Pork Belly Gua Bao with Cucumber, Pickled Carrots, Daikon and Hoisin Sauce (also AU$4.20 each) and a hot homemade organic soya milk (AU$3) to wash it all down.
Wonderbao is only a very small place with a limited number of seats (about 6) and there was already about 3 people sitting down. We politely asked some people to move along so we could sit down as well and waited patiently for our bao’s to arrive. When they did, it was everything I had been dreaming about. MS really had no idea what he was in for but lets just say he was more than pleasantly surprised with was placed in front him. One of my favourite things to eat in the whole world (although I don’t eat them nearly as much as I would like) is Steamed Pork Buns but Wonderbao took it to a whole new ‘cloud-like’ level. The photo below still makes me drool.
MS’ personal favourite was the Roast Pork Belly with Cucumber and Pickled Carrots and after polishing off both of them he complained that he ate ‘the best one first’. I honestly couldn’t choose a favourite – they were both absolutely out-of-this-world delicious.
The bao’s were a decent serving and good value for only AU$4.20 each and to be honest I don’t think I could have eaten any more than two. The fatty pork belly makes them extremely rich but that might just be me. I breathed a sigh of relief in knowing that the place I had lusted/drooled after for the last two years (and that we had been searching for the last 40 minutes) was as good – if not better – than I imagined it to be.
So on we went with plans to head to Chadstone for some shopping a little later in the afternoon but before that we had to fit in some Xiao Long Bao from Shanghai Street Dumpling – another place that I had heard so much about. The owners are originally from Shanghai and after spending some of October in Shanghai I have developed quite a penchant for these little soup filled dumplings of goodness but most of all I wanted MS to try them. Yes, I know it sounds like we were being massive fatties but that was in fact our plan for Melbourne. Instead of getting shitfaced for the weekend to celebrate our birthdays we were going to eat instead. Oh golly and eating we were! We lined up outside Shanghai Street Dumpling – the tiny restaurant was already packed to the brim.
I ordered some takeaway Xiao Long Bao (about AU$10 for 8) and we sat out the front of the MYER centre on the steps and watched a busker playing some electro beats (hey I’m no DJ but that sounds close enough). MS thought it was one of the coolest things he had ever seen – “Why don’t people do cool shit like this in Cairns?” he asked. Meh. I was more interested in the dumplings. MS thought they were good but nothing to rave about, I on the other hand was more than impressed. They were pretty much as good as the ones I had been having in Shanghai every morning – when I say pretty much, well they weren’t ‘as good’ because we weren’t in Shanghai of course. Food is all about the experience!
We made the drive out to Chadstone and realised that despite how I remembered it – the last time I went there was in 2004 – it was just another big shopping centre. We stopped in at Coles in the elusive search for one of Heston’s Hidden Orange Christmas Puddings but alas seems Australia had pretty much sold out of them weeks ago. WTF Coles? Why advertise this shit when you are just going to run out anyway? I refused to buy one off e-bay because that seems to be where they all went. I’m coming for you Hidden Orange! Until next Christmas! BTW Baking Myself Happy you never gave me a rundown of your Hidden Orange experience? Worth it?
On the way home – even though it was a little too early for dinner we figured that we had a pretty big day ahead of us the following day with it officially being MS’ 30th birthday and he was going to do a motorcycle track day all day. We headed to a place that had been recommended to me by a friend who shared my passion for Man Vs Food and was with me when I watched all 3 seasons of it back to back in November. Apparently Big Boy BBQ was ‘the go’ providing Melbourne’s first dedicated ‘low and slow’ cooked meat experience. There was a couple of them in Melbourne we figured that the one in Caulfield South was the closest to where we were – Chadstone. So off to Big Boy BBQ we headed arriving there at about 5.30 in the afternoon – before the rush so it seemed and on reflection, way too early for dinner.
Another claim to fame for Big Boy BBQ is that they aim to give you the best ribs in Melbourne. That was a big call. Not that I had eaten any ribs in Melbourne but I do consider myself a rib connoisseur as you may remember. If anyone was to be a good judge, it was this little vixen. After reading over the menu multiple times MS and I decided on the ‘Little Boy’ for AU$49 which includes Pulled Lamb Shoulder, Saucy Beef Brisket, 1/2 rack of lamb ribs (we changed them to pork ribs) and two regular sides (we ordered crunchy chips and smoked beef chilli with brisket burnt end and beans) as well as a Pipsqueak Cider for me and a Root Beer for MS (yuck I hate sarsaparilla).
The motto of the folks at Big Boy BBQ is ‘slow food… fast’ and that’s exactly what it was. No sooner had MS and I had sat down, had a couple of sips of our drinks and tasted the array of sauces supplied at our booth than our ‘Little Boy’ platter had arrived. At first we just sat back and admired it in all it’s entirety – trust me it was way bigger than it looks below.
It was something that I had could only have imagined during my morning long marathons of Man Vs Food. I was wishing that we had something like this in Cairns – actually no, maybe not. It may result in me putting on more than a couple of kg’s. Enough about my preconceived notions of BBB it was time to dig in.
The wings – they were bigger than expected, yummy none-the less but not really anything to write home about. The smoked chilli beef – yeah it just tasted like ground beef to me with some beans in it. The ribs were great but were they the best in Melbourne? Yeah, no. Not at all. My favourite part was actually probably the fries – they went down a treat with the BBQ sauce on the table and I also really enjoyed the pulled lamb shoulder.
We barely got halfway through it before MS and I threw up the white flag. Amateurs you reckon? Not at all, I can guarantee that I could eat you under the table but not when it comes to rich fatty meat. That kind of thing fills me right up to pussy’s bow (that’s a dad saying) before too long. I do feel that a lot of the food – because we arrived so early in the evening was actually leftovers from the day before. Some of the meat did have a sort of reheated texture and I think it would have tasted 10 x better if it was fresh. Having said that the food at BBB was good enough for me to consider re-visiting the place next time MS and I are in Melbourne. Maybe best to go about 7.30pm after the initial post work/takeaway crowd has been through.
So there you are, that’s Day 2 of our foodie adventures in Melbourne where we really did eat ourselves stupid. After that we went back to our apartment and lay on our backs, groaning with our food baby’s for the rest of the evening. Ah Melbourne so much food so little time..
8 Rankin Lane, Melbourne VIC
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 7am – 5pm, Sat & Sun 9am – 5pm
Melbourne City – Literature Lane (off Little Latrobe Street) – Cash only
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 8am – 6pm, Sat 11am – 4pm, Closed on Sunday
Shanghai Street Dumpling
342 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 11.30am – 8.30pm
Big Boy BBQ
764 Glenhuntly Rd, Caulfield South, VIC
Opening Hours: Sun – Wed 12pm – 8pm, Thurs – Sat 12pm – 9pm
Shop 2, 27 – 31 Hardware Lane, Melbourne, VIC
Opening Hours: Sun – Wed 12pm – 9pm, Thurs – Sat 12pm – 10pm