66 shades of grey

66 shades of grey
66 shades of grey ... this pic of me was shot by Kim, of Kim Thomsen's Photography at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Kim just wandered over and asked whether it was OK to get some character shots.


The cross is in front of the church in Karumba and it seems TV antennas have a greater reach for the sky.


I went fishing out of Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We anchored in a bay about 10 hours from Nhulunbuy and went ashore. This poor fella had been snared in the locals' overnight net and then had a run-in with the resident 14-foot saltwater croc - named Nike by the local indigenous fellas - and came off second best.

the rock

the rock

oodnadatta track

oodnadatta track
What a tough place to live ... this is out on the Oodnadatta Track


My photo
G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Legenday lunch ... a French quaffer ... The good oil ... Pinot envy ...

Lunch with my good friend Jane (she’s at @winematters on the tweet thing) is always a good thing, something made even better by the venue.
A window table tucked in the corner of a really busy Café Di Stasio (http://www.distasio.com.au/) was a great place to eat, drink and watch the world go by.
The food was amazingly good; ditto the service, atmosphere, wine and company.
Malory, who does the front of house, looked after the starters, but only after she had organised a Campari cocktail for Jane and a Campari and soda for me.
First up on the plate was the simply best pate I have tasted. And taste it, over and over, I did. Great crusty, griddled bread and a bottle of Cantina Terlan Pinot Bianco Vorberg Riserva 2008 made it a cracker of a start. The wine grew an extra leg in the bottle. It was great from the first glass and by the end of the bottle it was my new best friend.
Then came some fish cakes, some deep-fried whitebait (with aioli) and then some parmesan-and-herb crusted oysters. Sweet mother of Jesus. Normally, I don’t like oysters anyway other than natural, but these little fellas were to die for. They were succulent, just warmed through and the crust was, well, a masterstroke. Suddenly, there was another best friend. And another, this time Ronnie di Stasio, who came and sat with us and he got the animation level way up. He’s a cracker bloke who tells it like it is.
By the time the next starter arrived, we had ventured into another bottle of wine, this time a Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva Bugialla. The starter was to be another best friend. To wit, some crusty bread and a small omelette smothered in truffle shavings. Reckon I was almost done but it couldn’t be because I’d ordered a rare sirloin. Sheesh.
Malory joined us for a bite. She and Jane went for pasta. My beef was a cracker. So too the veg side dish and salad. We sat there post-food, just shooting the breeze, solving some of the world’s problems and deciding that, OK, time for the bill (the restaurant was empty by this stage, save one waiter and the three of us).
Not that I needed it, but I suggested that before we paid, perhaps a shot of grappa would be a nice final touch. OK, it was two. And it was Berta grappa. I’ve always loved grappa and I’m annoyed that my local bottleshop no longer sells it. Thank God because if it stocked Berta, it could become a habit.
The Bertas were enough for me to say “enough”. I did, after all, have a pinot and Peking duck dinner to go to and I wasn’t feeling in great shape for it (but that’s another story), and the time was on the bad side of 5.30.
We paid the bill and wandered onto Fitzroy Street (apparently I met my friend Molly from Lina’s … OK I do remember seeing her) and headed for home.
Lunch doesn’t get a whole lot better than at Café Di Stasio. I can’t wait to get back.

Wolfing it down

Things at my afternoon job are moving at a gallop. We’re probably the only print media company in the world that is actually expanding. We’ve started new titles and now have more staff from all corners of the Melbourne map.
What better way to put it in perspective than to have a meet and greet dinner for the senior staff at Mr Wolf in St Kilda. Great food, great wine (OK, it was a pinot fest) and some very fine single malt to end, proving that we’re all one big, happy family.

A new case

I just got a case of my favourite French quaffing wine … Macon Villages Chardonnay … from Vintage Cellars. The last case I got was $10.99 a bottle. It’s now $13-odd a bottle, but it really is good drinking.
And speaking of good drinking, I’ve had a couple of bottles lately of a Rocland Estate blend (51 per cent marsanne, 31 per cent viognier, 18 per cent rousanne) from Swords Wines in the South Melbourne Market. It’s $18 a bottle and, I reckon, is one of the better blends to come out of McLaren Vale.
In fact, I started a bottle late yesterday afternoon while I was busy with a huge pot of spag bol sauce for dinner and to stock the freezer.

The good oil

Truffles have played a reasonable role recently. I cooked my goat snags (they were fantastic) and with them had steamed cavallo nero with runny brie strewn through it and a splash of lemon-infused olive oil, and spuds with lots of butter and truffle shavings. Maybe it wasn’t the most healthy meal I’ve ever had, but it tasted good. Any anyway, everything is OK in moderation.
‘I followed up with scrambled, truffle-infused eggs on toast with a handful of chopped chives. The eggs were stored with truffle and the shell, being as porous as it is, absorbs the smell. It was heaven on a stick.
I also made some truffle oil.
A nice clean, washed wine bottle (there’s never a shortage of them at my joint), filled with extra virgin olive oil and the last of my truffle. About six shavings did the trick.
I’ll give it time to infuse, so I won’t use it for a week or three. Then it’s game on.

Simply the best

Burger chains may sponsor the Olympics and the AF’n’L, but for me there is just one.
After a longer-than-usual day at work on Thursday, I opted for an Andrews hamburger. It seems to have become a once-a-week treat for me. And I do mean treat. For anyone who hasn’t checked it out, do it.
I wrote a piece for Greg, the owner, a while ago. Perhaps it explains what I’m on about. It reads:
“Love is a must.”
With those four words, Greg Pappas, the owner of the iconic Andrews Hamburgers on Bridport Street in Albert Park, sums up the secret to his success.
It’s a love for the best-possible ingredients, cooked to perfection by Greg’s mother, Georgia… it’s a love for his customers who travel from far and wide … it’s his love for the Sydney Swans (but that’s another story).
And the customers do travel. Some come in luxury convertible cars, some by bicycle, others come by tram, and for some it’s a regular-as-clockwork walk .
Another Melbourne icon, Ron Barassi, said: "I have to get in the car and drive four or five kilometres, so you wouldn’t do that unless you really had a good result. It’s a family show and he’s a mad Swans supporter as well . Apart from that their hamburgers are fantastic and they have very, very good dim sims, their chips are fantastic.”
High praise indeed.
Greg’s uncle, Andrew Georghiou, started the business in 1957 after leaving Cyprus and migrating here at the age of 20.
For the past 53 years, little has changed at the Bridport Street institution. Competitors have come and gone, but Andrews has remained constant, but for a few things to tidy up after a fire in the ’80s. It’s still the same tiled floor and wood panelling and the 1950s menu board is still intact. There’s still a large bottle of Coke on a corner shelf, placed there by Greg’s uncle the day he opened the business in 1957.
Prices have changed. More than half a century ago a burger sold for the equivalent of 10 cents: one with the lot was 18 cents. The mince from the supplier was 20 cents a kilogram.
Greg, who bought the business in 2004, maintains his uncle’s simple but effective approach.
“Everyone says there are secrets, but the basic rule with our burgers is that we have the best produce (he has loyal, long-time suppliers) – the best bacon, the best beef, the best lettuce – and everything is prepared on the day.” It’s just salt and pepper once the meat is on the grille, where the perfect heat is paramount. And the cast-iron grille has never been cleaned with chemical products, a fact that helps the burgers retain a unique flavour.
Perhaps the final word belongs to Matt Preston, judge on TV’s highly successful MasterChef and recently voted the world’s best restaurant critic.
Preston last year published a list (he loves lists) of the Five Things I Get an Irresistible Desire To Consume In Melbourne.
It’s a list, he says, that “provides a fascinating snapshot of the great dishes of Melbourne” … it’s “five that have a special significance because it’s what I craved after five months of living north of the border”.
Number two on Matt Preston’s list: the burger at Andrews.
“… it’s the burger at this Albert Park institution that I get wistful over. It’s a generous sub-$10 feed: the secret is the way the meat has a toasty crunch that is matched by the fresh crunch delivered by pairing shredded drumhead cabbage with the iceberg lettuce that fills the bap”.
More than half a century on and the list of people sharing the world’s best restaurant critic’s craving for Melbourne’s best hamburger continues unabated.
One with the lot, thanks.

Pinot envy

There was a press handout that hit the office during the week and it certainly created some interest. Reckon I’m in for a ticket.
To wit:
Introducing PINOT PALOOZA, the exciting new pinot noir festival for pinotphiles being held in Melbourne on Sunday 21 October 2012.
The Wine Guide and Dig Marketing Group have joined forces to create an opportunity for those folks who are so crazy about pinot noir, that spending an entire 3.5 hours basking in pinot noir glory just isn’t enough!
More than 90 of the finest pinot noirs from Australia and New Zealand will be on tasting, many of which will be presented by the winemakers. For those who want to turn from pinot noir freaks into pinot noir geeks, they can come into the ‘inner sanctum’ of the Green Room where wine educator and writer Ben Edwards and wine educator Dan Sims will spend 45 minutes taking them through the finer points of this awesome wine.
PINOT PALOOZA will also offer some rockin’ good music and a selection of fine food chosen to match the high notes of these sexy pinot noirs.
As a special Early Bird offer those people who purchase tickets online at pinotpalooza.com.au before Friday 17 August will receive entry into this pinot noir extravaganza for only $50. This excellent price includes a complimentary Riedel Extreme Pinot Noir glass worth $30! Each of the tasting sessions is capped at 350 people so get in early to secure your spot.
WHAT: Pinot Palooza
WHERE: Ormond Hall, 557 St Kilda Road (corner of Moubray St), Prahran
WHEN: Sunday October 21, 2012. Tasting: 11.30 – 15.00 and 16.00 – 19.30.
Green Room Masterclass: 11.00 & 12.30 and 15.30 & 17.45.
TICKETS: General admission: $50 before Friday August 17 and $60 after this date.
Admission includes a Riedel Extreme Pinot Noir Glass worth $30, a copy of the James Halliday Wine Companion Magazine, a bottle of gorgeous San Pellegrino or Acqua Panna mineral water. Food will be available for purchase.
Green Room Masterclass: The Green Room Masterclass can be booked individually at a cost of $50 per session additional to general admission ticket.
MORE: pinotpalooza.com.au

Not bad for starters

Being the slack arse that I am, I still have two cars, a Subaru Forrester and a Toyota Landcruiser ute.
I bought the ute with the idea that I’d go back on the road for another look at Australia. Suffice to say, circumstances that developed and then faded conspired against me.
I’ve been driving the ute (cos I enjoy it) but the time has come to sell it. Any takers … ’05 and it has done just 110,000.
The bottom line was that I hadn’t driven the Forrester for almost five weeks.
I was prepared to get the jumper leads but thought I’d give it a go.
It fired up first time.

Making cents

Speaking of cars, I’m always on the lookout for change to feed the parking ticket machine at the office for my arvo job.
Suffice to say, I’ve usually got a pocket full of coins.
I’ve taken to putting all the five cent coins into a bag with the idea of giving them to one of the homeless blokes that I usually see up the street from my place.
I waited until there was about five bucks (give or take a coin or two) and headed up the street to buy a baguette.
I was on the lookout for a bloke, the one with the face tatts. Most locals are a bit afraid of talking to him and he doesn’t get too many donations.
Bingo. I wandered over to him and handed him the bag of coins and apologising because they were five cent coins.
“Thanks brother,” he said before giving me a hug. “You’re a good fella.”
There’s a good lesson in that. Don’t judge people on the way they look. And give.