Review: Hard Rubbish

hard rubbish pic

Last week I saw Hard Rubbish at The Malthouse with one of my girlfriends. The show is puppetry, but it’s not the old-school Pinocchio on strings type of puppetry, not even close. Hard Rubbish left on the curb – from a goofy washing machine to loved-up couch cushions – comes to life. Each piece has its own little cameo as they emerge from the pile, explore their surrounds, interact with each other and, sometimes, with the audience.

The hero of the show is a pink rocking horse, a cute little fella who falls in love with a tiny chest of drawers. He gallops around the stage, puppeteer pressing his ear to elicit a comical pre-recorded neighing sound. Things start to get a little serious, however, when a glowing white chest of drawers arrives on stage. This ominous creature just seems out of place at first, but it soon emerges that the drawers are a vicious psycho bent on destroying the moulding, olding odd-ball hard rubbish.

Mr pink pony gets rather upset when the shiny new drawers take his beloved baby chest of drawers hostage and turn them into a shiny white mini-clone. The hard rubbish all team up to try to take down the evil Ikea drawers, Mr pink pony leading the charge. The show culminates in an amazing all out war between the new and the old furniture, with everything from plastic spoons, bowling balls and fake poo being flung around the stage.
It’s a dirty, messy and very funny show. I had a pillow thrown at me. I cheered on toilet bowls racing each other and I watched, terrified, as Mr pink pony got vacuum sealed into a plastic bag (don’t worry, he was ok in the end and no animals were harmed in the making of…).

I laughed so much. It was a Tuesday night, an early 6:30pm show and during the school holidays, so the audience was packed out with kids. I felt like one of them, in a good way. At first I was worried, thinking I’d sat down for an hour of cutesy (or worse, moralistic) puppetry for children. But within ten minutes, I was so into it! And I think I developed a crush on the hero, Mr pink pony puppet…

This show has a nice message about recycling and our throw-away culture, but it’s not really going to make you think deeply. It’s creative and entertaining and involves treasure-hunting toilet brushes. It’s just plain fun and it reminded me how good it can be to just go to a show that makes you smile for an hour and a half. On until 6 October, go see it for a giggle with a girlfriend and a guilt-free dose of theatre.

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Choco-ma-holic

I love Melbourne (quite obviously). I love lists. I also LOVE chocolate. So it was quite clear to me that today’s post was long overdue for my blog. Below are my top ten chocolate experiences in Melbourne, in no particular order. And yes, I am eating chocolate while I write this, it’s the only way.

1. Chocolate soufflé at Bistro Vue (see pic below). They bring this baby out on its own little purpose made dish. The waiter picks up a pot of melted dark chocolate, cuts a cross in the top of your soufflé and pours the molten chocolate into your soufflé. It’s just so light in texture, yet that sauce is so deeply dark.

2. Iced chocolate donut at Crumbs Bakery. This one is dangerously close to me, on Errol Street. The donut is super crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, with tonnes of sweet sticky chocolate icing on top. And, as an added bonus, it’s vegan and organic. Nice!

3. Pear and chocolate tart at Dolcetti. I could eat everything at Dolcetti. The baked caramel cheesecake is crazy-good. But this chocolate pear tart is something really special, a great combination made with love by beautiful Italian women.

4. Handmade chocolates at Koko Black. I’m sorry, I can’t choose just one flavour as my favourite (and neither should you).

5. Giant chocolate chip marshmallow cookie at Patricia. The coffee is a bit too cool for school (though apparently very good), but this giant cookie is chewy, gooey goodness with very large milk chocolate chips.

6. Chocolate passionfruit brownie at Le Petit Gateau. There’s brownie, there’s some sort of hazelnut crispy layer, there’s passionfruit mousse, there’s chocolate mousse, there’s dark chocolate ganache and there’s passionfruit gel. Not for the faint hearted. Definitely for me.

7. Cherry ripe bar at Haigh’s. Not very sophisticated, but so delicious and nostalgic.

8. Death by TimTam cocktail at The Carlton Yacht Club. I don’t even know if they make these any more. But they were amazing. Think of an alcoholic chocolate milkshake with a whole TimTam floating on the top, all served in a martini glass to make it feel a little bit classy. I was certainty not very classy after a couple of these!

9. Chocolate coated almonds at the Lindt Café. Personally I don’t like the ambience or the service much at the Lindt Café, but you can eat these delicious little morsels on the go.

10. Ferrero Rocher ice-cream at Seven Apples. Sweltering 40 degree days are totally worth it for this St Kilda gem. The ice-cream is thick and creamy and full of crunchy Ferrero pieces. I’d also recommend their Turkish Delight flavoured ice-cream, which won a silver medal at the 2011 Sydney Royal Cheese & Dairy Show. Wouldn’t you just love to be a judge at that show…

Bistro Vue's chocolate souffle

Bistro Vue’s chocolate souffle

IP in porridge?

Porridge at Auction Rooms

Porridge at Auction Rooms

Last week I had brekkie at Auction Rooms with a friend of mine. I normally have the Shady Deal, or maybe muesli there, but that morning I opted for Auction Rooms’ three grain porridge with rhubarb (see the pic above). On the page, it sounded extremely similar to Di Bella’s five grain porridge with rhubarb. In realty it was quite different, with the porridge having a rice grain base and the rhubarb being a rhubarb coulis rather than Di Bella’s stewed stems. Di Bella’s was definitely a better interpretation of this idea, in my view. Auction Rooms’ texture was a bit odd and the edible flowers on top didn’t do much for me. I have no idea whose version came first, or if they even know about this shared menu item.

More importantly though, is that this porridge reminded me of a (very nerdy) interest of mine in the ownership of recipes and culinary ideas. Can you patent a cooking technique? Copyright a recipe? Can you own the intellectual property (IP) in porridge? I did look into this some time ago, when I was back at law school doing a subject called ‘Special Topics in IP’. Seeing those near identical menu descriptions (but quite different executions) reminded me of this interesting concept.

In Australia, I think recipes could meet the requirements of a literary work for copyright purposes. But what does that give you? You write a great recipe. Someone can’t then go and reprint that exact recipe in their cookbook and make lots of money. But what’s to stop them taking your recipe and making it in their restaurant, cashing in on your work in that way instead? Even if that was protected, could you prove it? Do you care if they do it?

Cookbooks have existed since at least the thirteenth century apparently, so there must have been a fair bit of appropriation and outright copying over that time. I mean, there are only so many ways you can make a lemon tart or spaghetti Bolognese. Then there is the question of when something becomes different or original enough to make it your own, for you to be the author or ‘owner’ of it, both legally and/or in the culinary world. If you take someone else’s lemon tart recipe and add ouzo, or a coconut crust, is it then yours?

The same questions, of course, have been debated for a lot longer in the art world. And food can be a type of art form, I think. I know a few art fans (my mum included) who might scoff in horror at that suggestion. I’m not saying my strawberry cupcakes are up there with Monet’s waterlilies. But some of the plates I ate at Attica or Vue de Monde encompassed a true appreciation of colour, line, composition and texture. They were thoughtful, carefully constructed by creative people, sometimes amusing, always surprising. That’s art, isn’t it?

Some things I have read on this suggest there is a sort of unofficial ‘honour code’ between chefs who attribute the source or inspiration of recipes in their own cookbooks. Chefs who break these rules and blatantly rip off others’ recipes in their restaurants or cookbooks are shunned, gossiped about and chefs stop sharing or working with them. In a world based on apprenticeships and collaboration, I guess that would be quite effective.

It’s something I have kept in mind in my own handwritten recipe book, where I write down recipes I make regularly. Some are what I would call ‘family recipes’ perhaps original enough to be our own, but many are taken straight from cookbooks. For those I try to write down the source and note any changes to the recipe I make. I know it’s a bit arrogant of me, but I do that in case I ever wanted to publish a cookbook. With these notes I could attribute properly, noting my own innovations along the way.

Is that crazy? I don’t know. I guess it’s partly the lawyer in me. But as chefs push the boundaries on cooking, they innovate with new techniques and the cult of the celebrity chef grows, I think we are going to see a lot more lawyers weighing into the culinary world (and I don’t just mean at their usual table at Bistro Vue!).

Procrasticooking

I didn’t coin the word, sadly. But I love ‘procrasticooking’. I actually saw it as a status update on Facebook and thought, wow, yes that summarises several hours of my week in one nice little word. I’m thinking there are many others out there too, who make elaborate dinners from Gourmet Traveller rather than the vacuuming, attempt a MasterChef style croquembouche tower rather than study for an upcoming exam or turn into Jamie Oliver, pumping out masses of pucker tucker when what you should really be doing is making an appointment to see your dentist.

To get all technical on you for a moment, to procrastinate is to delay or postpone action, to put off doing something. For me procrastination has a sort of wilful-yet-hopeful attitude to it. So when I procrastinate I very earnestly and industriously do something else, all the while kind of hoping that while I watch Game of Thrones or go for a walk my assignment might just actually write itself.

Cooking and/or baking is definitely one of my favourite activities to avoid doing something else. Hence my joy at discovering this new term. I’ve since learned that Urban Dictionary actually has an entry for ‘Procrastibaking’, Procrasticooking’s sweeter doughier cousin. There’s also a blog called ‘Procrastibaking’ and a Facebook page dedicated to it. Obviously I haven’t been doing enough procrastinating to know this!

When I was at Uni I used to procrasticook during the SWOT VAC week. Thinking ahead I’d reason that, when in the midst of complex and intense study, I’d hardly be breaking to make myself dinner. Yet I still had to eat. My brain required better fuel than bananas and three packets of Tim Tams a day. So at the start of the study week I’d make all these dinners, eat some and freeze the rest. It worked pretty well, but I did lose a day of study to my procrasticooking…and I still ate the Tim Tams.

Procrasticooking can be a very creative activity. See, sometimes I’m desperate to avoid something so I go into the kitchen and think, ‘yes, I’ll make a cake, that will solve everything, right?’ However, making something on the spur of the moment probably means I haven’t got all the necessary ingredients. In the past this has led to me inventing alternatives. I’ve made custard when I had no milk (mixing cream with water by shaking it together in the tub works perfectly), cupcakes with no butter (use vegetable oil or sour cream) and a random salad of canned things (canned corn, canned beans, canned chickpeas, plus some garlic and herbs), which was surprisingly good.

Cooking and baking are certainly not the only things I do when procrastinating. I’m procrastiblogging right now, since I’m blogging from bed and avoiding getting out of it. I procrasticlean a lot. Never is my desk so tidy as when I’m under pressure at work. Sometimes I even procrastiexercise, despite my normal lazy attitude to going to the gym. Then there’s the whole going online and procrasti-planning-holidays-I-can’t-yet-afford thing. But procrasticooking perhaps has an edge on these other forms of procrastination in that at the end of your procrastination you have created something. Something solid, measurable and hopefully delicious. You can stand back and look at your giant stack of blueberry pancakes and think yes, it was worth losing that hour of time I should have spent sending emails to do this, because look what I made, look at its glorious pancake-iness, I am a goddess of the kitchen, hear me roar….Ah hem, anyway, you get the idea. You get a product at the end of your procrastination, something to hold on to while you pump out the last of your essay at 11:52pm before the midnight deadline.

So procrasticooking can be a good thing. But like any procrastination, it can be a bad thing if it gets to the stage that you actually fail to do the things you need to do. Delay is ok, complete failure might not be so healthy. In that vein, I’m now going to get out of bed, do my dishes and then get ready to get on a flight (to Sydney) for the weekend. I hope you all have many procrasticooking adventures this weekend!

PS – in a spate of procrastination a few nights ago I’ve redone the look of my blog. Hopefully it is easier to navigate and just, well, prettier. Love to hear what readers think!

PPS – I’ve also included pics of a few yummy things I’ve been eating in North Melbourne lately. These are partly for you and partly to motivate me to get out of bed and make breakfast! Or just go to Di Bella…

Semolina gnocchi at Stovetop in Carlton

Semolina gnocchi at Stovetop in Carlton


Signature muesli at Di Bella in North Melbourne

Signature muesli at Di Bella in North Melbourne

Can't go past a Di Bella chai latte

Can’t go past a Di Bella chai latte

I can pie and go to heaven now…

banana cream pie SF

Possibly the jewel of San Fransisco and the eighth wonder of the world: Tartine’s banana cream pie. It consists of a flaky pastry case so buttery that it’s sort of like a hard croissant, the case is then coated in dark chocolate and filled with caramel, bananas, pastry cream and whipped cream, with giant chocolate flakes on the top. Despite its huge size, I finished this baby. In fact, it was so delicious looking that a fellow Australian traveller asked to share my table (it was very crowded) and an older US woman on the next table declared that she had ‘pastry envy’!

Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon

San Fran’s Ferry Markets

Organic apples

Organic apples at the markets

Yesterday I visited San Francisco’s Ferry Building markets. They are right on the water, in the building that was originally the ferry terminal. The building is full of local artisan producers of everything from wine and cheese to vegan donuts. Because it is a predominately taste/visual experience, I’ve gone for more of a visual diary of the day I spent eating my way around the building. Plus, on Saturdays, Tuesday and some Thursdays there is a farmers’ market which surrounds the building with more fresh produce stalls. I hope you enjoy – I sure did!

A great selection of cheese at Cowgirl Creamery

A great selection of cheese at Cowgirl Creamery

Grilled cheese with caramelised onion and pickles on sourdough at Cowgirl Creamery

Grilled cheese with caramelised onion and pickles on sourdough at Cowgirl Creamery

Cowgirl Creamery on Urbanspoon

Black beans - makes me want Mexican!

Black beans – makes me want Mexican!

Strawberry gelato at Ciao Bella

Strawberry gelato at Ciao Bella

Market prettiness

Market prettiness

Pretty plants

Pretty plants

Chillis, so many types!

Chillis, so many types!

A great little deli and wine store

A great little deli and wine store

Heirloom tomatoes - they are on every summer menu over here.

Heirloom tomatoes – they are on every summer menu over here.

 

So many types of mushroom! Possibly even some magic ones...it is San Fran after all.

So many types of mushroom! Possibly even some magic ones…it is San Fran after all.

Lovely pottery at Heath Ceramics

Lovely pottery at Heath Ceramics

Miette - a gorgeous and well known San Fran bakery. So many polka dots and sugar flowers, love it!

Miette – a gorgeous and well known San Fran bakery. So many polka dots and sugar flowers, love it!

Delicious raspberry mousse sponge cake from Miette

Delicious raspberry mousse sponge cake from Miette

Handmade retro aprons

Handmade retro aprons

An entirely gluten free bakery called Mariposa. A glutard's heaven - I'm looking at you Miss S and Miss J!

An entirely gluten free bakery called Mariposa. A glutard’s heaven – I’m looking at you Miss S and Miss J!

Turtle cookies in California

While this is normally a blog on North Melbourne, this week I’ve jetted off to California for a week’s holiday. San Francisco and North Melbourne actually have a fair few parallels. For starters, they are both overflowing with hipsters and really great places to eat. It’s a much more international city than many others in the USA. Of course there is amazing Mexican food (we ate at a fab vegan Mexican place in the Mission on my first night here called Gracias Madre), but there’s also authentic Thai, super cheap and delicious Indian, all you can eat brunch from the Deep South and just about everything in between. They also have trams (or ‘cable cars’) here, though the system is much more limited than in Melbourne. The weather is currently sunny and gorgeous, but normally it’s pretty changeable here, like Melbourne. Plus the politics in San Fran are probably the closest to the inner city small ‘L’ liberalism you find in North Melbourne. Sadly though, the coffee isn’t really on par, with only a few places offering coffee which meets the strict standards of my coffee-snob partner.

Yesterday though I headed out of San Fran to Palo Alto. It’s a cute little town based around Stanford University. It’s sunny around 80 percent of the time there apparently and there’s definitely a clean affluent feel to it, with the student population from the University giving it just enough edge to make it a pretty cool little place.

We got the Caltrain to Palo Alto, which, by the way, seems to be pronounced something like ‘Paul-o All-toe’ by the locals, a pronunciation I still can’t get right. We hit the main drag, which is called, rather unimaginatively, University Ave.

My partner, having been here a few times before, suggested Orens Hummus for lunch. Being a life-long vegetarian basically guarantees you’re a hummus fan I think. And that’s what they do, hummus. Hummus with just about everything. Technically they call themselves Israeli cuisine, but it’s a sort of middle eastern mix of options on the menu, plus a few Americanised items.

I ordered The Hummus Triangle, which was a serve of their classic hummus, plus spicy garbanzo  beans (chickpeas), fava beans and tahini. My partner had the Hummus Beef, which is what it sounds like – a whole lotta hummus and a whole lotta spicy beef.

Pita bread from Orens Hummus

Pita bread from Orens Hummus

Hummus Triangle at Orens Hummus

Hummus Triangle at Orens Hummus

Both dishes come with a never ending supply of homemade white and wholemeal pita bread. That’s one very American thing I think, everything either comes in a giant portion or with free refills. Drinks are free to refill, bread is free to refill and at the movies, popcorn is free to refill.  The meals are so huge, I don’t think I’ve actually finished one yet. On the first night, at the end of the meal the waitress looked at our half eaten plates and said ‘Can I get you a box?’. I looked at her a little strangely before remembering that, unlike in Melbourne, it’s perfectly ok to take-away your meal from a restaurant and eat it the next day. I think a lot of people do, making dinner their lunch at work the next day and saving a few dollars in the process.  That’s the other thing – menu items appear quite cheap compared to Australia, but once you add in the taxes and a decent tip, I think San Fran dining is about on par with prices in Melbourne.Anyway, back to the hummus. The hummus itself was pretty good – it was rich, creamy and there was a lot of it! It didn’t have as much flavour as I would like, but the pita bread that went with it was so fluffy and delicious that that made up for it. My only disappointment really is that I thought fava beans were what Americans called broad beans. Subsequent googling (because I’m pedantic like that) suggests I’m right. What I got on top of my hummus, however, was kidney beans. They were ok, but you know, not those big fat lemon-y  baby broad beans I was hoping for. Overall though, Orens Hummus was a hit for me. I actually think there is a market for that kind of place in Melbourne.  I actually think I’d like to open one myself…

Following hummus, it being me, dessert was required. For this we headed straight to Cream. It was recommended to me by my sister, who lived and studied in Berkeley for a semester. Cream has an outlet there and recently opened up one in Palo Alto. They do one thing. Ice-cream sandwiches. Very big ones!

The line for Cream was about 40 people deep, out the store and along the footpath past two other stores. I’m not sure if it is always like that, since it was a warm day, but I can understand why it’s so popular. For just $2.99 ($2.50 if you pay cash) you can choose two cookies (two different flavours if you like) and a scoop of icecream and have them sandwiched together in front of your very eyes. Like dessert magic!

The cookie flavours included classics like chocolate chip and oatmeal as well as more unusual ones like ‘Turtle’ which was chocolate, caramel and peanuts, Snickerdoodle (cinnamon) and Cappuccino. The icecream flavours were similarly variable, including decadent sounding things like banana walnut fudge, chocolate chip cookie dough (in case you didn’t have enough cookie in your sandwich!?), royal caramel swirl and strawberry cheesecake. It being California they also had vegan options such as vegan chocolate cookies with soy mint chocolate chip icecream.

I opted for one chocolate chip cookie and one Turtle cookie with salted caramel icecream. The cookies are still a little warm and soft in the middle, which makes them extra good. The sandwich is created in a wedge shape, to make it easier to hold and then squeezed into a small paper bag to make it easier to eat in bites. The cookies were excellent, especially the chocolate chip one which had lots of milk chocolate chunks that were still warm and gooey. The salted caramel icecream was a little disappointing, in that it wasn’t very salty or caramelly and just tasted like sweet creaminess. Wedged between two delicious cookies though, it was more than acceptable and I polished off that thing in record time.

Cream's icecream sandwich

Cream’s icecream sandwich

Cream on Urbanspoon

Oren's Hummus Shop on Urbanspoon