Home Made Special: Historical Porridge

In a shameless ploy to get Baby Chino’s History and Live some attention, I agreed to have him make me breakfast in bed. Aren’t I nice?

This morning we were travelling back in space and time to Ancient Greece, through the tried and true portal of porridge. According to the authors of The Classical Cookbook ancient greek women who knew about herbs could use this porridge, or kykeon, for dangerous purposes – like sending men to sleep, or worse!

It is likely a breach of copyright for me to post the actual recipe, so the things that went into this dish are: semolina (soaked, drained), ricotta cheese, honey and some egg. The combination of those ingredients in quantities approximating 1 : 3: 1/2 : 1/2 grams, and heated to almost boiling point, looked like this:

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I had an immediate insight into how the Athenians built the Parthenon, how Pythagoras birthed his theorem and how Sappho had the strength to articulate her passionate poetry: they were all essentially fuelled by cake. I could not contain my delight at having an excuse to eat such a thick, creamy batter for breakfast. There was a pleasing grittiness to this pale, slightly cheesy mass. A hint of honey transported me to the Elysian fields; as if I were lightly traipsing through them, sunlight reflecting dazzlingly off the golden fleece I’d be wearing, as well as off my perfect Grecian curls. That was all in the first mouthful. Subsequent mouthfuls became more and more laborious; indeed, Heracles would have been proud of me for eventually finishing such a task. It was exhausting, luckily I was already in bed so I could comfortably lapse into a food coma. Baby Chino thus truly succeeded in channelling those Ancient Greeks, or at least the women who knew about sleep herbs.

I would not recommend this as an every day food, at least not for anyone who wouldn’t use the subsequent energy to throw a discus or run a marathon.

Solid Porridge, Greece!

– MM

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Naughty Boy: Nice Bircher

As a long weekend Monday would demand, I wanted to expend the least effort possible to go out to breakfast this morning. As I had visited the highly proximal Miss Marmalade yesterday, I thought I might branch out and travel slightly East to Princess Hill, notable for its leafy greenery and graveyard. Fun fact: the bust that sits above the drinking fountain by the cemetery is modelled on a direct ancestor of Baby Chino, who is not the man named on the plaque – that guy was sick at the time of sitting for the sculpture. Nothing like swooping in and getting your mug immortalised in someone else’s name – classic Chino family tactics.

Speaking of hijinks, the establishment that we visited this morning was the aptly named Naughty Boy, sitting sheepishly on the cusp of the fun end of Lygon Street, next to Richardson Street. Naughty boy is an airy space that is lit by all manner of quirky hanging lights. Well, two manners; dropping down from logs, and dropping down encased in black milk crates. These gave the place an eclectic, calculatedly haphazard feel that was offset nicely by neat teal tiling adorning the counter and walls. Northern-suburb chic oozed from the exposed brick peeking out from defects in the white concrete walls, with a grimy No Standing sign indicating that the patrons were to be seated, I suppose. One of the walls contained the top half of a head, probably of a ne’er-do-well male child, but I don’t want to make assumptions.

Happy, the menu can be found online, so I don’t have to remember that I ordered:

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So many specific words and letters, you can’t just make this stuff up. What is a corella pear? How do chia seeds fit in? I will answer all those questions and more right now:

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Such a collection of things! I feel I am supposed to divine my future from the way that the ingredients have fallen…here goes…my perception is grainy, however it looks like I will be encountering a juicy pear of nuts…oh my, I’d better stop right there and focus on the present/recent past. What a moist plethora of flavour this breakfast was! The cool tartness of the pear mixed sensuously with smoky almonds, while the salty pistachios elevated the cool, sweet apple and yoghurt-soaked oats. Finally, the bitterness of the blood orange was a thoughtful reminder that nothing in life is easy or straightforward, and that breakfast is serious business that should not be wolfed down. It also left my mouth with a slight tannin residue, as if I’d just has a sip of tea but with the added bonus of chewing. The textures here were just as varied and satisfying, with special mention to the pleasure I derived from squishing the pomegranate seeds and popping the small grapes with my teeth and palate. The Naughty Boy muesli was an intimate, visceral experience.

Final word: Visit Naughty Boy and order the muesli. While some disciplinarians might argue that you would be reinforcing bad behaviour, sometimes you’ve got to take a chance on a rogue.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Click to add a blog post for Naughty Boy on Zomato

Miss Muesli Abroad: Japan Tour – Sentido Cafe

It has been all quiet on the writing-about-muesli (but not necessarily on the eating muesli) front over the last few months as I have been busy with significant life events such as finishing my degree and being on proper holidays for the first time in a very long time. There is something about suddenly having heaps of time that really distracts from things that require discipline such as the very serious task of oat bloggery. Now, however, I am overseas and idle time is again a commodity – What better conditions to spur me to write?

Like any budding artist (yes, I’m counting breakfast writing as art – it’s certainly not blasphemy or pornography), I have gone on tour in Japan! The only problem with this, I suppose, is that cafe muesli is a rare beast in this land. In fact, according to my extensive searching (read, I googled “city x cafe muesli”) there has so far been only one place that I have found that caters to my very specific Western breakfast needs. But I’ll get to that. First, I’ll set the scene. Cereal is not the norm here. I have been starting my days with convenience store bought aloe vera yoghurt, which advertises that it is “good for beauty body” so I guess that’s probably the wisest thing to eat in the morning. Just quickly, in Japan 7-11s and their ilk are the best and a far cry from the over priced service stations back home. Let’s just say I’d happily eat an egg and mayo sandwich from a 7-11 in Japan.

Back to breakfast. Probably the beautiful low point for me was having the most ornate, meticulous traditional Japanese breakfast prepared in the room Baby Chino and I were staying in. Eating fish, tofu and pickles for breakfast was too much for my three weetbix and a banana palate to handle. After that the search for cereal intensified, and I found success in Kyoto: Cafe Sentido is a glorious anomaly near the Karasuma Oike subway station. Blackboards cheerily announce the menu which includes the much sought after ‘cereal set’. That’s all I needed. Without further ado, calling on the language skills that Chic Pea tried hard to impart to me I ordered for myself and Baby Chino:

Cereal set oh futatsu onegaishimas

When this was met with a friendly, lengthy reply asking for my preference about something, my Japanese competency reached capacity and I just said a blank-faced yes to everything that followed. This is the result of my confusion:

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Hooray! This was granola, and like most things in Japan from my height perspective, everything about it was tiny. The oats were in sweetly toasted fragments, combined with similarly obliterated nuts. Together these created a crunch-fest that I had been sorely missing in the morning. The prospect of slurping yoghurt for breakfast every morning is one reason to look after my teeth I suppose. The dollop of yoghurt in this meal cooly contained delicate slivers of banana. Fruit is very expensive here, I have seen cantaloupes from the equivalent of $21 – $70 each, but it is also so richly tasty. These banana slices seemed to have a concentrated flavour, that made my brain sing with the happiness many good breakfast memories. The meal seemed over almost as soon as it began, but it was worth every yen.

Final word: If you are living in Japan or are travelling for any length of time and have a bit of homehungriness for a cafe breakfast, find Sentido in Kyoto. Cereal rejuvenation awaits!

Good muesli, Kyoto!

-MM

John Gorilla: Rolled his oats up and threw them at me…and I liked it.

Spring has sprung and I emerged today from my blog-hibernation squinting warily into the sunlight as Baby Chino and I rode through residential Brunswick at earlier-than-8am for our breakfast appointment. What a time to be able to ride a bike;  the roads are deserted, the air is crisp and the best meal of the day is the reward for our exertion (although I’m not sure  leisurely riding for less than 2km really counts). Also, there is a smug self-satisfaction that comes from watching the less disciplined breakfast crowd that arrives around 9am waiting to be seated, while I sit back in post-muesli bliss chatting happily to my companions. I’m all for a Sunday sleep in, but will trade that for unimpeded access to breakfast in a heart beat.  Anything to avoid brunch territory and the subsequent meal confusion that always follows –  what time should lunch be?! I shudder to think.

This morning’s breakfast took us to John Gorilla, a quaint cafe just North of Hunter Street on Pearson. Upon entering I was transported back to early childhood and this was my playroom; perhaps it was that the main counter was so high that I immediately had the strange experience of actually having to look up to address someone; maybe it was the brightly coloured plastic fruit and trinkets that adorned the main table at the entrance, or perhaps it was the whimsical seaside feel of the section we sat in. Most likely it was the old Snellen chart that adorned the wall opposite me so that whenever I looked up I was reminded of my early optometrist and a time when my prescription did not require super-thin lens technology to avoid the coke-bottle look. What a great place!

With no trepidation I ordered:

Bircher muesli: golden raisin and hazelnut with seasonal fresh fruit

I was then surprised to hear Mr Scrambled Eggs actually order his namesake, even more surprised when Baby Chino ordered porridge (considering how he feels about oats), and not surprised at all when Ms Mimosa ordered B.L.A.T. Back to me:

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It looks like a fantastical landscape at dawn. My inner child sat there imagining the strange beasts that might traverse those strawberry peaks and seek shelter under the grape-boulders. My outer adult quickly stuffed a spoonful of it into my mouth. Citrus-surprise! There were slices of fresh orange buried under the apple and yoghurt-soaked oats, buried so completely that I had no idea what I was tasting, initially cursed Mr Gorilla for overdoing it and started wondering if I would still be able to put off going to the dentist until I can afford health insurance. I found that there was actually no need for that level of catastrophising as the rest of the dish was delightfully creamy and oaty, with the only bursts of sweetness being from the obvious and not-so-obvious fruit within. A quick comment on golden raisins – delicious and translucent – but how are they different from sultanas? Wikipedia says: they’re not. But who can you trust?

Final Word: Set your alarm for early and venture out to John Gorilla for a whimsical breakfast, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

John Gorilla on Urbanspoon

Baby Chino Guest Review: Glam Café – Sun, Sea, Croatian Muesli and Having Fun Without Miss Muesli

Suddenly finding myself outside of Melbourne in small side street of Dubrovnik, a town famous for being the capital of Westeros, I decided to duck into what I can only assume was ironically named Glam Café for the bad taste of muesli to remind myself of Miss Muesli who it seems loves Melbourne too much to quickly pop out. Sitting under the awning of “Glam” Café, in a thin cobbled alley with Mrs Vaguely-Witty-Name-But-Lets-Face-It-Not-Really, Mr Who-Really-Cares and Miss Self-Indulgent-Inside-Joke-With-Friend’s-Name-But-Means-Nothing-To-Everyone-Else. A quick glance at the temperature here, it’s at a boring 27° C in this shaded seaside area, while Melbourne is currently enjoying 13° C with rain at this very moment. Haha, quite the contrast. How do you them apples, Miss Muesli?

Anyway, the difference between Balkan cafes and Melbourne cafes are that here amongst the peasantry breakfast is ruled with an iron fist, you get what you are given and you smile and take it, no matter what IT is. Very refreshing compared to the *****, whining, ********** found in Melbourne with the “customer is always right” garbage. Seeking refuge from the dozens of buses disgorging American tourists from their floating cesspit of a cruise ship, I find myself enjoying the fragrant aroma of smokers inside and out of every establishment, and so I ordered the elaborately named:

Müssli with jogurt

My first non-meat or non-cabbage meal in weeks, which was this:

Manmuesli

…excuse me? I didn’t order müssli with fruit, I ordered müssli with freaking jogurt, what are you doing here fruit? I thought all this inside of course, smiling I thanked the waiter: hvala, hvala.

So I got bloody fruit all up in this business. Too much fruit. Banana: you’re ok. Pineapple: what are you doing buddy? People only sort of tolerate you on pizza. Orange thing: lucky you have no taste. Grape/round thing/whatever you are: get out of here. All that with watered down jogurt and too small an amount of muesli. All in all, it was alright. But this is Hrvatska, not Melbourne, it’s wonderful! Dobra Hrana! Hvala Vam!

Good Muesli? Bad Muesli? Who Cares Muesli? King’s Landing.

-BC

Baby Chino Guest Review: Vyve Cafe and Restaurant

Note: This is a guest review by Baby Chino, who was left behind while I visited Canberra. The grumpy views posted here are his alone. He wanted the title of the post to be: Café Vyve – A Real Muesli Review as No One Really Likes Miss Muesli (Especially Her Terrible Titles). Rude.

While Miss Muesli is traitorously eating muesli in Canberra, it’s time for a real assessment of the state of Melbourne muesli. Turning a scheduled service of a lemon of a Suzuki car named Coco into a family affair, Madam Marmalade (?), Lady Sourdough (??) and I decided to eat breakfast in a café named Vyve in Heidelberg somewhere (possibly…I think…it was near the Austin Hospital at least). The café was pretty nice and we were able to sit in the back that looks up over a green tree-y area and see the trains on the Hurstbridge line go past, so pretty nice. The servers were nice and inoffensive (as they should be), however a family with small screaming children arrived (a chronic problem in Melbourne cafes), scowling I ordered:

Vyve Bircher Platter: Bircher muesli, seasonal fruit salad, organic handmade crumpets with your choice of spread

This is what I got:

David muesli

First off, as no one really like fruit, I palmed off the salad as quick as I could, I mean who wants to eat a fruit salad for breakfast? Secondly, not being asked what spread I wanted (tut tut), I was given honey for my crumpets, which looked a bit pale compared to the lovely orange of Golden’s Crumpets we all prefer (that’s ‘organic handmade’ stuff for you). The muesli was presented in a little salsa jar, which I have to admit was pretty novel (however as I think back on it, what audacity they have for making me open the jar lid myself). Smearing the on honey and eating the crumpets, I found them to be pretty good, if a little dry. As for the muesli itself, it was wet with some sultanas and almonds mixed in, which to be honest, was a little bland, so for better or worse I poured my remaining honey into the muesli. The honey added a sweetness to the sour lemony taste of the muesli, which I finished eating as the others ate whatever it was they had ordered. All in all, I guess the muesli was alright but I, like everyone under the age of 60, don’t really like muesli anyway.

– BC

Vyve Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Footscray Milking Station: Porridge(?) That Needs To Be Put Out To Pasture

I woke up in a state of nervous excitement this morning. No, it was not my wedding day, not even my birthday – today was to be my first porridge review – eeep! While I am a major proponent of muesli in all of its cold glory, I have recently been looking forward to the turning of the seasons so that I would have an excuse to order and review the (hopefully) fancy cafe version of muesli’s hot, steamy cousin – porridge.

For this momentous occasion I ventured out West to visit Footscray Milking Station, a cafe nestled amongst the residences at the corner of the leafy Bunbury and Cowper Streets. My sole rationale for going there was that the name seemed quaint and I wanted to feel farmy – and that my intuition told me this would be a place that knows how to treat oats. Lucky for me I don’t often rely on my intuition, but more on that later. Footscray Milking Station has a surprisingly dark exterior serving only to accentuate the cheeriness of the green front door. The interior has a cosy rural feel imparted by a light brick wall, unadorned except for milk vats perched upon wooden shelves. Additionally, the small, square windows closed the place in creating a sense of homely warmth in contrast to the overcast morning outside.

It was to the strains of slow, grand 60s pop music that I contentedly examined the menu. I’ll admit that I felt a slight regret as I lingered on, and then passed over, the muesli on offer. Instead I elected  for:

Semolina porridge with rhubarb and pear compote

It is only on transcribing the menu here right now that I have come to realise that what I ordered was semolina porridge, and that at the time my glucose-starved brain could only equate the word porridge with oats and thought that semolina was just an adjective! Well, I had no idea and so the vitriol I had planned to spew in the coming paragraph now feels hollow. How disappointing! Here is what emerged:

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Safe to say, I was expecting a warm bowl of gloopy oats in milk and so was completely baffled when this bizarre dish came out. It was awful. In retrospect I should have twigged when I was saying things like “how did they manage to obliterate the oats so completely?” that this was because there were no oats to begin with. Here, I was going to snarkily support the equally oblivious Lady Marmalade’s  comment that it had the texture of wallpaper glue. It did, but I think that might be intrinsic to semolina as a food. The Milking Station could have saved the dish with the tart magnificence that is rhubarb, however the compote was a sparse, inadequate distraction from the nightmare I had been served. If only I had realised what semolina was in time (and not almost 8 hours later)! This heavy pâté that was masquerading as “porridge” did fill me up, but not in a good way – I was determined to eat morning tea as soon as I got home so as to quickly erase this food memory.

Seeing as this post now has nothing to do with oats, I’ll go even further off track and share the pancakes that were ordered by Baby Chino – who doesn’t like cereal or eggs and so is rather restricted when we go out to breakfast:

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It is not just due to the questionable quality of my photography that these look like burnt pork medallions. Baby Chino reported that he has had pikelets bigger than these and that the money to pancake ratio left much to be desired. We were both disappointed this morning, it seems.

It was due to mainly my own ignorance that I had a terrible breakfast at Footscray Milking Station. I cannot comment on the quality of the semolina porridge as for all I know it is supposed to taste like floury, uncooked dough. All I can say is that I will never order it again especially as I now associate it with broken dreams and injured pride.

I suppose I should be happy that this doesn’t count as my first true porridge review.

(Not even close to) Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

Footscray Milking Station on Urbanspoon