Day off

First day off in 10 days. 33°. Hot. Note to self…must get a fan. It’s pretty heady stuff in my room on the third floor. Maybe because of the heat, maybe because of all the coffee coursing through my veins from one of the new guys at the cafe practising his coffee-making yesterday, I awoke with the sun and went for a walk down the beach towards St Kilda.

Not that I needed more coffee in my system, but feeling the need to have someone else serve me food, I wandered down to Jerry’s where the Jamaican barista always remembers I speak French (from being in there with French Karen) but doesn’t remember that I don’t drink soy lattes. I must look like a soy latte kind of woman, or something. Every time.

Errands in St. Kilda, swim in the outdoor pool in Albert Park, Christmas shopping in Elwood.

Then, buoyed by my successful independent-Jo Jo-dines-solo-and-also-does-cultural-stuff-alone Friday, I decided to go to my sister-in-law’s brother’s play in a pop-up theatre in Abbotsford. By pop-up, I of course mean temporary, and by theatre I mean primary school classroom. And seeing as I was over there, it seemed like a good option to try Huxtable, which is in Collingwood and so, just around the corner from the aforementioned pop-up play.

I looked at the online description for Huxtable and I am going to include it here. As far as I can tell, the following is just a collection of words…I find it very hard to know from these words what exactly the idea of the restaurant is or the kind of food one might expect…

Huxtable is a collection of practices, observations, beliefs and experience accumulated over a many years in the industry and squeezed into one business model. When deciding what to apply to this model the brief was simple ‘All the things that work and none of the things that don’t.’

We believe we’ve chosen correctly.
Huxtable is a place where anyone can come and enjoy great tasting, uncomplicated food matched with wine and beverages that express consideration and experimentation delivered in an environment that is comfortable and easy to use”

Basically, what I think they’re saying is “We make nice food. You should come and eat the nice food and, hey, have some nice wine to go with it and you and your friends will sit about having lovely times and chatting and laughing…ha ha…”

The best thing is, I think they were right when they came up with their crazy philosophy. The waitstaff were excellent, the chefs just quietly and efficiently got on with their work in the open kitchen, nice selection of wine and the food was delicious. 
Ideally, one has friends at a place like this so that you can get a few plates and share. The independent dine alone Jo Jo was slightly thwarted in this but what I did have was exceptional.

I started with tempura eggplant prawn fritter with shiso. Shiso is a little like a japanese basil, except it is a little more fierce looking than the innocuous basil. The fritter was crunchy on the outside with a delicious moist and flavourful filling.

Next was the quail with a green mango and cashew salad and roasted chilli dressing. Clean, fresh flavours. Melt-in-the-mouth little bird.

Dessert was a deconstructed version of cheesecake: creme fraiche cheesecake, strawberries, citrus crumbs and mango sorbet. Divine. Taste sensation. Over too quickly.

Then on to Abbotsford and possibly the world’s first dramatization of Anders Breivik’s massacre in Norway. The writer, Tobias Manderson-Galvin, who deserves fame, if only for his name, based his play on Breivik’s 1500 page manifesto. Actually, T M-G deserves fame anyway. Some might say, “too soon” for a play about the events of Breivik’s life which led to his shooting and killing young people at a summer camp on Natoya Island, and yet, The Economist successfully raises questions and addresses issues of the media’s role in atrocities as well as the racial prejudice with which people view the world. Clever cast, completely in role and in the moment. Bravo.

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City life

From the French Festival, I headed into the city. I have long fantasized about eating at Movida, or even Movida Next Door. Spanish Tapas. Melbourne institution. But if there is one thing worse than dining alone, it is standing at the end of a bar, alone, waiting to be served, and feeling hyper aware of all the couples and groups of friends drinking and eating and chatting and laughing. I don’t blame the staff at all, it was very busy. But I felt alone and unseen and I left.

 I found my way back to Coda where I had been on another occasion and was treated like royalty for all my solo-ness. I sat up at the bar and had champagne and a mini assortment ( 3 plates) of delicious asian-slash-european wondrousness.

It has been Melbourne Music week and I almost missed out through apprehension of  going to a gig on my own. But this was adventure Friday and I was on a roll. I headed to St. Michael’s Uniting Church in the city where I was bathed in the most glorious music from three indie folk bands signed to the Mistletone record label: Wintercoats http://mistletone.net/label/the-orbweavers/
Montero http://mistletone.net/label/montero
and The Orbweavers http://mistletone.net/label/the-orbweavers/
Bliss.

  

One of Europe’s most innovative temporary architectural installations is set up on the banks of the Yarra for Music Week. Kubik is a french-inspired cafe by day and an open-air music venue by night. It is constructed from interconnected glowing water tanks which change colour in response to the music. 

Paris to Provence

You can imagine my excitement when I heard about the Paris to Provence festival being held this weekend at Como House, a historic homestead in South Yarra. Paris to Provence is a celebration of France and frenchiness in Australia. 

 As soon as I walked into the grounds of Como House, I was transported to France. There were people speaking French, french food, wine, music, costumes, French products. I was in heaven.

 After a happy time wandering the stalls, sampling caneles, macaroons, wine, cheese, I emerged from my little French experience with French dvds, children’s clothing, French earrings…none of which I needed but I was so caught up speaking French and wanting to ingest it all that I couldn’t help myself…damn those French and their beguiling ways…

French bull dog, dressed for the part

Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe is a historical fiction novel by Sir Walter Scott written in the 18th century, but set in 12th century England.  Scott has been credited with starting the wave of medievalism which swept over the 12th century literary world. Ivanhoe is all crusades and tournaments and capture and rescue.

Ivanhoe is also a suburb in Melbourne just 10km from the CBD, perched on a hill and home to Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School, my employer for next year.

Ivanhoe – the suburb

Ivanhoe, the school

Ivanhoe Girls’ was founded in 1903 and some of the buildings date back to then, especially the Federation frontages of the houses along Marshall Street which house the Junior School and Administration wing. Then there is a very fancy state of the art library, media centre and upstairs staff area with a deck for lunch in the sun…

Cate Blanchett grew up in Ivanhoe and went to the school.

Victoria – State of Mind

Victoria has been on the move, the place to be and the garden state. Now its number plates will be focused on a road safety campaign. There is no hint as to what exactly that catchy and life-saving slogan will be and Victorian motorists will have to wait its rollout next year. Many have contributed ideas but none tickled Premier Ted Baillieu’s fancy and he has decided, if you want  job done, you do it yourself. To add weight to his desire for a road safety message, Mr Baillieu confessed that he had been caught speeding once or twice, ‘a long time ago’. Right. There’s nothing like a personal story in politics.

Victoria – slow down…Victoria – don’t rush…Victoria – better late than dead on time. That last one might be too long… 

Out and about

These are some of the things I saw on a 33 degree day off from The Turtle.

 It was 24 degrees at 7am this morning and the outdoor pool at MSAC in Albert Park beckoned.
Lunch with a colleague from PEGS in Moonee Ponds and then over to Northcote. On the way I passed the ROCOR, or Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which I couldn’t miss because of its gold domes. Originally built in Collingwood, the church had to move to another site as there was no room for expansion on the original site. The congregation was none too happy at this prospect and even less so when they discovered that the site proposed by Alex Alexander, a prominent and astute parishioner, was opposite a former rubbish tip. But this site was available, the right size and, in fact, cheap because of its location. Eventually a park was built on the tip site and Alex Alexander was a winner at the end of the day.

 Just around the corner from the ROCOR is the CERES Community Environment Park. CERES = Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Studies. The park is all about education and urban farming and seeks to use sustainable energy and green technology to run facilities on site. There is an organic market and nursery, as well as an education centre and cafe.

 Next stop, Northcote. Northcote is 7km from the CBD and is on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people. They were the main tribe of people settled in the area which would become Melbourne. The European settlement of Northcote began in 1839 and in the 1870s it was home to a number of slaughteryards, piggeries and claypits. Now there are lots of shops, cafes and the Northcote Social Club, which I am yet to get to but which seems to host numerous bands which I think I’d rather like.

 Coffee at Penny Farthing with Patrick who is one half of Patrick and Jane, ex-Christchurch people. See http://bignoisefromalytteltown.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/patrick-and-jane/ to hear more…

 Melbourne loves cycles. Of all shapes and sizes, it seems. Run by brothers, Penny Farthing Espresso is all wooden tables, whitewashed walls and single origin coffee. Nice.

Fly My Pretties

Fly My Pretties, the fantastic seed, nurtured and cultivated by Barnaby Weir, has been growing over 8 years, and tonight, on their 4th round, they played in Melbourne with a stellar line-up of extraordinarily talented musicians. Five are from Christchurch, two of those from Lyttelton. Their performance tonight was incredible. Those people are creative geniuses in their own rights and, collectively, they are epic ART. They played from 8 til 12 with an intermission and it was magic from start to finish.

To quote Mary Shelley completely out of context, I loved Fly My Pretties with an ardour far exceeding moderation. Bring on the CD, I will be dancing with myself and wanting more, more, more.

Hot in the City….

….tonight….tonight.

Anyone, get the Billy Idol quote?…anyone…? Ah well.

Regardless of your knowledge of 80’s music and whether or not the line of a song can cast you back to the roller skating rink in Wainoni, as it does me, it IS hot in the city tonight and it was super hot today. When I say ‘super’, I mean 30 degrees. I shudder at the thought that, for here, that is not super hot at all and how on earth am I going to cope when it hits 40?

There were a lot of people on MY beach today.

Balcony Picnic

Elwood
28°
Morning spent hunting and gathering at the St Kilda Farmers’ Market at The Peanut Farm Reserve. Melbourne gets the big thumbs up from French Karen, perhaps largely because of the incredible range of really good food. Organic goat cheese, which was volcanic in its oozing-ness. Artisan bread and, luckily it’s not so much that you taste the hands that made it (?!), but you can feel that they were there. Tomatoes that taste of the sun. Mizuna that tastes of a light breeze and a hint of pepper.

Tourism

First Up: 
… a specialist coffee and teahouse tucked away down a laneway off Carlisle Street in Balaclava. The address is 202, but that’s a Dentist…you have to go around the back and it is behind 202. It’s like knowing about a secret club. And it was a little like a secret club on the inside too, all deconstructed brick and hanging bulbs. Cool. 

 Their ‘thing’ is ‘healing and sustainable food from scratch’. I am all for that, but really, the time it took for 2 coffees and 2 mueslis to come out, they may well have been growing, harvesting and roasting the beans, not to mention stewing the rhubarb and selecting each rolled oat according to its personal characteristics. It was all excellent, so who can complain, really and I am imagining the zen origins of the place mean that time is irrelevant and it is all about enjoying and savouring the moment and being content to sit and absorb.

The name comes from Bodhidarma, a 5th century monk who may have introduced Zen Buddhism to China and Japan. During a silent nine-year cave meditation retreat, he fell asleep and being so frustrated on his failure to stay awake, he cut off his eyelids to ward off sleep. According to legend, the world’s first tea plants sprouted from the place his eyelids fell. I’m just not going to think too hard about that.

 Next stop: Rooftop Bar, Swanston Street. Artificial grass and young people galore. Once up there, the cloud disappeared and the sky became a brilliant blue.

 Aboriginal art at the NGV. Rich beautiful colours and amazing patterns. (below)

 Yarra River, big city.

 Melbourne Central Station. The shot tower and the Melbourne Central Cone.  Shot Tower…the brick you see in the photo was  completed in 1888 and is 50 metres high. It was saved from demolition in 1973 and was incorporated into the Melbourne Central complex in 1993. The tower produced six tonnes of shot weekly until 1961 when the demand for lead shot dwindled because of new firearm regulations.