It was a fairly chilly night, some of us were really hungry, and we were walking down Bay St to find somewhere to eat. Corte was an interesting looking place on a corner, which had big signs up advertising Portuguese nights, and Argentinean nights, but we weren’t really sure what the general cuisine was. Nevertheless, we decided the place looked good, and so decided to give it a go.

It was a busy night, so the only table we could get was outside, but this ended up being great. The outside was set up with tables and chairs, candles, lots of patio heaters, and looked to be the perfect place to catch up with friends over drinks and a few nibbles. It was however a horrible light to take photos in, especially since I didn't have my DSLR and was relying on an iPhone and an S4.

The menu also conveyed this intent, with most of the options focused around sharing. The cuisine would best be described as tapas, with limited vegetarian options, but we had a 50% vegetarian ratio at the table, so we ordered everything vegetarian on the menu, plus a few meaty options for the others. We were informed the food would arrive in stages as it was prepared, and this worked well, given that that was all designed to be eaten in small portions rather than as a whole meal.

We started with a couple of serves of sourdough bread, which were served with Spanish olive oil and rock salt. I am a bit of a bread connoisseur and this bread definitely passed my test. It had a solid crust, and a soft bread texture which was just how I liked it. The rock salt was very strong though, so I had to be careful to have no more than just a touch on each mouthful. It was a solid start to the meal.

We then had Pimientos de Padron, which were little peppers sautéed in lemon and salt. It may sound simple but these were delicious. Apparently the heat of the peppers wasn’t consistent though, and whilst I didn’t get lucky enough to get a really hot one, others did. I suppose that can’t be avoided...

Another vegetarian option was the Gringa. This was a soft tortilla, filled with sweet corn puree, and topped with tomato salsa and sour cream. The others around the table deemed this dish to be one of their favourites, however for me, it was the dish I least liked. The corn puree didn’t seem to be seasoned enough, and so tasted a bit bland. Perhaps I’m just used to much stronger flavours.

We also ordered a quinoa salad which had quinoa (obviously!), fetta, chilli, limes and grapes scattered through it. This dish was definitely one of my favourites. The mild heat of the chilli, the tang of the lime, and the freshness of the grapes all combined to provide an amazing flavour explosion. It also tasted great with the above mentioned peppers.

This was the end of our original order, however we decided we were still a little hungry, so we decided to get another serve of the tortillas and also try the remaining vegetarian option on the menu, which was a Queso Fundido, or baked camembert. I had never had baked cheese before and boy was I in for a treat! The cheese was seasoned with cracked pepper and spring onion, and baking it resulted in a gooey, fondue like mess which was delicious. It was served with a few slices of bread, which was no where near enough, and in the end I ended up spooning the gooey cheese onto my place and eating it by itself, because it would be a sin to let it go to waste!

Corte turned out to be a pretty good place that we stumbled upon. It's definitely a place that caters to large groups, and casual dining, but the food is pretty decent, and the atmosphere is lovely.

 Corte on Urbanspoon

Yesterday I woke up to a Facebook photo post from a friend, who’d just received what looked like a random box of groceries from a company called Redpawpaw. Intrigued, I decided to investigate a little further and came across the Redpawpaw website.

The concept is as follows: You order a box of groceries and household items worth $30 for as little as $5 a month. The catch is that you don’t know what you are going to get, so it’s like a lucky dip! In return, you get to sample a whole heaps of products you may not have previously tried, and provide feedback on a survey that is sent to you! Sounds good? Well it gets even better. One of my closet passions is to try and support small and local industries so I was very glad when I read that Redpawpaw try and place an emphasis on Australian made products.

I signed up for Redpawpaw that morning when I got into work where I was asked to come up with a profile for my household and provide information on my preferences. I assume this is what helps determine which products will be in my box, after all giving me pet food or baby products would be useless! The only question it didn’t ask me was about dietary restrictions, but I’m sure if I get something non vegetarian, the other half will be more than happy to take it off my hands.

There are two options for the box, you can either select a $30 box of groceries and pay $10 a month, or you can pay $5 a month for the same box of groceries plus the added fun of filling in a survey with your feedback on the products. I love surveys, so naturally I went with the latter option.

I got myself an annual subscription, which allows to get two boxes for free, so I only had to pay $50 for the year. The boxes are sent out after the second week of every month, which meant I was too late to receive the May box, but photos indicate that the box was great!

Few of the items that caught my eye included some Green’s pancake mix, some Kellogs’ cereal and Saxa salt flakes. All the items come in an actual cardboard box, which could be used for so many purposes. I have my eye on it as a shoe storage box, but we’ll have to see!

For now, I just have to sit tight, and wait until the end of June when the next boxes get sent out... can’t wait!
It was an exciting night, I was off to see Michael Buble's first Melbourne show for his 2014 tour! I'd bought these tickets about eight months ago, so needless to say, I was glad the day had finally arrived! But first things first, we needed to have dinner.

Optic Kitchen + Bar was the venue chosen, mainly because of it's proximity to Rod Laver Arena, plus the reviews online made it seem like it was reasonable.

Located in Federation Square and attached to ACMI, Optic is a rather cute restaurant. There are American diner style booths, and also regular tables which surround a bar. There is a small wine list, and a reasonable beer selection, including Mountain Goat on tap.

I chose to have the one vegetarian main they had which was an eggplant and portabello mushroom stack served with warm green lentil and spinach salad, Persian feta, smoked capsicum purée, smoked cherry tomatoes and a few pieces of crispy lavosh. What I didn't realise was that the eggplant and mushroom was stacked horizontally, rather the vertically, but this proved to be a stroke of genius, because it made the whole thing easier to eat! The smokiness of both the cherry tomatoes and the capsicum purée added a loved flavour to the dish, and the freshness of the spinach provided a clean taste to cut through the other flavours.

There were other smaller vegetarian options on the menu, including a pumpkin, broad bean and sage risotto which looked delicious.

Over all it was a great meal, and a great prelude to a night with Michael Buble!

Optic Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon