There are two types of hangover: the one where you stay in bed all day, run through the previous night’s events in your head, and generally feel depressed; or the one where you push on and pretend that you don’t really have a hangover.

Yesterday A and I had the second type.

This latter version involves not so much pain but vagueness and a disregard for time. It takes 45 minutes to read a two-page newspaper article. Food shopping can take up to three hours.

Yesterday I inspected almost every item at Mediterranean Wholesalers. I picked up every jar of artichokes, pickled octopus, porcini, sundried tomatoes, olives, pesto. I turned the jar around for a full purview, read the ingredients, assessed the price, and compared it to the Queen Vic Markets. A and I pawed over each and every Italian household cleaning item, and attempted to decipher the ingredients and instructions.

The only way to reward such effort, of course, is with the doner kebab, a few doors up from A1 Bakery, Sydney Rd. And this is the pivotal moment of this second type of hangover: simple things can make you feel elated. Yesterday it was the kebab.

A said that the kebab was the best she’d ever had. Lightly toasted Turkish bread (just called ‘bread’ in Turkey, of course), thinly sliced fresh tomato, onion, salad leaves, parsley. Garlic mayonnaise. And piles of warm, spicy, sliced lamb.

I had to have a bottle of Coke, too.

When M and I first met, M didn’t cook. I don’t know how he’d managed — I guess his mum and his girlfriend had cooked for him all these years. And he’d eaten a lot of take-away.

When M and I first started living together, he’d help me cook, since he didn’t know how. I’d say, ‘Here, slice these mushrooms,’ and he’d say, ‘With what knife? Which chopping board should I use? How should I slice the mushrooms? Can you start them off, and then I’ll copy what you do?’

These days, of course, M is a regular cook. But he’s said some odd things lately. For example:
1. On the phone to G, who is in Fitzroy, and wants to have dinner at the pub: What? Dinner at the Union? Nah, I don’t eat there. The food’s crap.
2. Referring to a local Thai takeaway: I don’t want to go there anymore. I mean, it’s not that it’s BAD, it’s just not that GOOD. So why go there?
3. Entering the apartment, where he sees me working at some pizza dough: Do you know what you’re doing?
4. At 6am this morning, in bed, with a hangover: Do we have any lemons? (Just running through a recipe in his head?)

Is M becoming a foodie?

Comme Kitchen: The dining room

Originally uploaded by Fat Duck.

I closed my eyes and pretended to be in Manhattan.

This was pretty convincing, especially since our booking was for 9.45pm, and some very moneyed, tuxedo-clad types were bowling up the ornate staircase to the function room. (C informs me that the function room’s high ceilings and enormous, emerald-green chandeliers are very impressive.)

Perhaps the kitchen has to order more Barramundi than any other item on the menu, as five out of six of us opted for Wild Barramundi with olive oil mash, sauce vierge, saffron and mussels.

When I realised this oversight, I switched to the slow-cooked lamb, artichokes, sherry, peas, mint and creamed pearl barley.

The waiter’s brain recorded ‘lamb’ but her fingers recorded ‘veal’. When they mistakenly brought me veal, and I corrected them, my lamb was prepared as everyone else was served. So I sat and watched five others eat. When my main finally arrived, though, the wait was worth it.

Possibly the best dish of the night, though, was the baked ricotta cheesecake with mixed berry compote. All sounds very staid, right? Yet this was like no other: rich, creamy, firm, and tart, in a way that makes your eyes roll back into your head.

Plume exterior

May 21, 2006

Plume exterior

Originally uploaded by Fat Duck.

The yum cha table

Originally uploaded by Fat Duck.

Plume Restaurant
546 Doncaster Rd
Doncaster, VIC

Many would agree that the best yum cha in Melbourne is not in Chinatown but in Box Hill or Doncaster. Plume is definitely among the best. The food is exactly like being in Hong Kong except there’s plenty of space. And unlike Shark’s Fin, it’s not packed out with North Face-clad shoulders shovelling past you to the lift, and the staff are not rude. At Plume, service is unpretentious and relaxed.

The yum cha highlight was the pork congee. I made congee for M the other week when he had the flu, and it turned out quite OK, but the century egg makes all the difference. When congee is cooked properly the rice becomes creamy, and it’s difficult to spot individual rice grains. This congee was authentic.

My grandpa did have a few spoonfuls on congee, much to my relief, as the only other things he’d agree to eat were deep-fried: prawn wontons and spring rolls. The man’s an 86-year-old diabetic. I guess he just woke up one day and said, ‘stuff it, I’m old, and from now on, I’m only eating the deep-fried stuff.’

Fair enough.

Mango pudding

May 21, 2006

mango pudding

Originally uploaded by Fat Duck.

Mango pudding often gets overlooked in favour of some sago or an egg custard tart. M was glad he chose the pudding, though, as it was particularly good. Spongy yet firm, and just sweet enough, with a strong, fresh mango aftertaste. A great way to forget about all the food you’ve just eaten.

Do you think it’s reasonable to assume at an average middle class, educated, thirty-something Italian man — who enjoys eating and cooking — can actually cook good, regionally specific, Italian food?

Or is this simply an impression that the average type would attempt to cultivate out of pride?

I’m curious.

Corn fritters at the Greengrocer

Originally uploaded by Fat Duck.

I like the way this photo's taken: swarming over the top, ready to dive in, face-first.

Note the bright cherry-red chutney. The chutney was the best bit. It was the most attention-seeking part of the dish because it was so sweet. This was a good thing.

The corn fritters themselves were nice and light, too. So often corn fritters are like stale and crumbly sourdough. I didn't say 'Gluttony'.

If I were a housewife

May 13, 2006

If I didn’t have to go to work, I’d live on a farm. I grow my own animals: ducks, pheasant, geese, squirrel. I’d kill them all in a barn, and I’d cook them.

So instead of going to Queen Vic for duck sausages, I’d kill my duck, gut him, pluck him, and then, by hand, make my own sausages.

These would go perfectly with my handmade pasta.


Originally uploaded by Fat Duck.

Turning 30 was like getting married, only better. All my presents were straight off a bridal registry — Le Creuset pot, Larousse Gastronomique, pasta maker, cookbooks, fine china — yet I didn’t have to actually get married.

So this week I’ve decided to master homemade pasta. I thought I’d start out with duck sausage parpadelle, as featured in Gourmet Traveller’s ‘Posh Pasta’ feature.

But first, a lesson was in order. So B and P invited me over for pasta, and for a quick and fun lesson with the new machine.

I had never enjoyed fresh, handmade pasta before. The texture really is so much better than bought fresh pasta. Tight, firm, silky.


I thought the biodynamic store at the Queen Vic Markets could be a good place to find duck sausages. But they didn’t seem to have any, so I bought five chorizo sausages instead. I said to the guy, ‘You don’t ever have duck sausages, do you?’
‘No, sorry,’ he said. He narrowed his eyes at me, excitedly. ‘A few people have asked me that today, though. What’s going on?’

I thought for a moment. ‘Oh, there’s a duck sausage recipe in the latest Gourmet Traveller. That must be it.’

This magazine influences what people are searching for at Queen Vic. I like that.