At our place, at this time of the year, birthdays come in quick succession, and last week it was my husband, B’s, turn to celebrate.
Our daughter jumped at the chance to bake another of her special cakes – the more year 12 study she needs to do, the more cakes we’re eating! B and I also took the opportunity to have a night on the town.
On his actual birthday during the week, B chose Il Pizzaiolo in Darebin Road, Northcote for dinner, and we managed to get both the kids to come along too. This is one of our local pizza restaurants, but it’s not the kind of place we’d grab weekly takeaway for the family (that would be For the Love of Pizza).
Il Pizzaiolo’s pizzas are “baked for 90 seconds at 485 degrees Celsius in a stone oven with a wood fire” and that must be why they’re the crispiest and most delicious pizzas I’ve ever eaten.I suspect if we took them home they’d lose all that crispiness in the box. They’re also a bit more expensive at around $20 each, so we save them for special occasions.
Our son, P and I each had a Patata pizza without cheese (potato, caramelised onion, rosemary, olive oil) and H, our daughter, had a Marinara pizza (san marzano tomatoes, fresh garlic, oregano, extra virgin olive oil), and we all shared a salad.
There are no vegan desserts at Il Pizzaiolo, but that’s OK, because I never have room for dessert after eating their big pizzas anyway. Instead we walked home to eat birthday cake.
A fancy cake
B loves chocolate and strawberry, so H created a triple layer chocolate cake with frosting and strawberry slices between the layers, and chocolate-dipped strawberries on top.
I have a very high tolerance for sweet foods, but this was a struggle, even for me. The frosting had a large block of 70% cocoa chocolate melted into it! It was really delicious, but I could only manage one slice (which is unlike me when it comes to chocolate cakes).
B loved it, and managed to devour 2 slices before almost passing out from sugar overload.
A day/night out
Madame K’s Vegetarian
We started our day at lunch time, jumping off the Brunswick Street tram to eat a late lunch at Madame K’s Vegetarian.
We decided to go for some small plates, rather than have a big meal. Unfortunately, we didn’t give enough thought to what we were ordering, and ended up with a totally fried lunch – leaving me feeling rather ill. It was absolutely my own fault though – the food was delicious, I should have just made sure I ordered a salad or something to cut the oil.
Tempura vegetables – light and crisp, with LOTS of eggplant (my favourite vegetable) and Lady finger rolls – I left most of those for B, because he doesn’t like eggplant much.
Corn fritters (at least I think that’s what they were – they were also a daily special). These were our favourite dish, but I had to let B have most of them, because it was his birthday and, anyway, I had a lot of eggplant to get through! They were really crisp and tasty, and soft on the inside.
We finished up with dessert – B had another special, which I think was a strawberry sago and I had (why?)…more fried stuff…tempura banana! It was as good as I remembered from last time, but I really didn’t need any more batter or oil.
We jumped back on the tram and off again at the National Trust’s beautiful, old Tasma Terrace, to see the Antipodean Steampunk Exhibition. It was very clever – my favourite exhibit was probably the CD player with the big gramophone horn. Part steampunk; part hipster – and I didn’t even get a picture!
Rialto Intercontinental Hotel
We headed down to the Rialto Intercontinental Hotel in Collins Street. I’ve had a fascination with this building since the 80s when my friends and I drank cocktails at the Menzies at Rialto (as it was then). They were hideous, fluffy, creamy, 80s cocktails like Fluffy Ducks, Brandy Alexanders, Orgasms and Grasshoppers, but the bar set in a covered laneway between the two old buildings, seemed really fancy to my young self. This time we were staying there and pretending we were on holiday.
I was a bit disappointed when I realised that the hotel is actually a new building (on the left in the picture) meant to compliment the old building on the other side of the atrium. In our room it was pretty much like every hotel. Unfortunately, the balcony doors are locked, so you can’t get any fresh air, which always makes me claustrophobic, but we didn’t spend too much time in there anyway. We had a show to get to!
B has been wanting to go to the Melbourne Recital Centre for years, but we’ve never seemed to get ourselves organised to get there until now. Recently, he found out that Dmitry Sinkovsky would be playing at the Recital Centre with the Australian Brandenberg Orchestra. I had no idea what any of that meant, but he was excited about it, so I secretly bought tickets for the two of us as his birthday present.
We arrived early and found ourselves a sheltered outdoor table next to a heater at Blondie a little restaurant/bar next door to the Recital Centre, and listened to some live jazz music while eating vegie dumplings and pistachio nuts and drinking gin and tonic. If this had been all we’d done, I would have been happy. It was lovely!
Melbourne Recital Centre
The Recital Centre was pretty spectacular, and we had these funny seats in the wings, (you can see them in this image) sitting in single file halfway up the wall. I got a crick in my neck from twisting around to see the stage, but even so, the view was excellent. The music was fantastic too – and Dmitry Sinkovsky is a real entertainer…and he looked a lot like Leonardo Di Caprio from where I was sitting.
We ended the night sitting in the bar at our hotel – but there are no Fluffy Ducks listed on the menu in 2014 (anyway, they wouldn’t be vegan), so I settled for a Cointreau…or two.
It really did feel like a little holiday. We even had a swim in their big, heated pool at about 7am on Sunday morning, before our big buffet breakfast. The buffet breakfast, by the way, included something I haven’t come across before – a huge range of fruits and vegies, with a juicer that you can use yourself to make up your own bottomless breakfast juices! A carrot, celery, apple and ginger juice settle my stomach nicely after all my unwise food and drink choices the day before.
If you haven’t made it to the Recital Centre since it opened in 2009, here’s a really good view of it – and you can see the funny wing seats. I’m looking forward to going back as soon as I can find an excuse.