Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chevys Fresh Mex!

Sophia says: Tonight we went to a Mexican restaurant called Chevys. We have been here once before a couple of years ago. When we got there we were seated quickly and got one adult and two kids menus. I ordered pink lemonade and a make-your-own taco off the kids menu. It sounds like you can make your own but it turns out that you just tell the waiter how you want it and he makes it that way for you. But when I got it, it was pretty good! Our food came quickly. On the kid's menu you can pick out 2 sides and 1 dessert that are included, but a drink is 99 cents.  My sides were applesauce and corn tomalito. After our food came, our waiter checked on us once, and by the time we got dessert, he left all of our plates on our table.  For dessert, I ordered the ice cream mini cone but they were out of cones so I had it in a bowl.  They only had vanilla ice cream but I thought it was okay. The restaurant is very big but it's also very cold. I kept my jacket on the whole time I was there.

 2116 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040   (650) 691-9955

Josh says: Tonight we had dinner at Chevys! I ordered a cheese quesadilla and carrots and celery and corn tomalito. Our waiter was nice. The restaurant was kind of big. There was a lot of people. The menu looked nice and if you are a kid, they give you crayons and you can color on the menu. And they had drinks like pink lemonade. I thought our service was fast and they gave us chips and they were hot and crunchy.  My quesadilla was delicious. I did not like the celery but I did like the carrots. My dessert was vanilla ice cream and just so you know, they only have vanilla ice cream or jello. I would definitely come back!

Jodie says:  We were seated quickly and our food came quickly and that's the most I can say. I ordered the tortilla soup and it was fine.  Our waiter seemed to lose interest after our initial order and we didn't see him again until the kids were ready for dessert. I was also freezing during dinner. Josh liked Chevys a lot but I'm not sure if I would come back anytime soon.  

Food: ***
Service: **1/2
Atmosphere: **1/2

3 Ladybugs!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Taste of Tasmania 2012

And it’s on for young and old – again! The annual Taste of Tasmania, 2012 version. And who better to report back on it here, again, in the world of reality, than cynical old Rita?

I traipsed around there yesterday, which was the opening day, and, according to today’s Mercury, attracted around 70,000 punters through the doors for the day! A massive amount of humanity, and I think they all managed to congregate around Rita, as it seemed to take half my life to get something to either eat or drink!

  • lots of great, truly Tasmanian food, hence allowing this festival to genuinely live up to its name of Taste of Tasmania
  • ‘cleaner’ feeling to the whole environment (ie not so grotty as in the past)
  • good representation of producers of food and wine, both small and large
  • minimal ‘fast food’ alternatives

  • less general seating, leaving you wandering round clutching your plate of cold food, looking for somewhere to perch in order to eat it! We ended up standing and eating when we had exhausted all possible seating avenues. Eventually we obtained one end of a table, but definitely had to ‘serve our apprenticeship’ in order to do so!
  • so difficult to make your way around, due to crowds – but Bec and I found the ideal way to tackle this problem! We walked down the middle of the main eating area, between the tables containing everyone sitting down and eating at the bench tables, instead of around the periphery of the ‘room’ as everyone else was doing which was resulting in a walk anywhere in the building taking 20 minutes not 4 seconds! You could SEE where you wanted to go, but just couldn’t get there!

Will I go again? Not sure, but I’m pleased they at long last seem to be getting it right there, in some ways. Fix the seating and you’ve got a firm fan for life!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Drysdale Christmas shop 2012

YAY! The Drysdale Christmas shop is back again this year, bearing gifts of Xmas puddings, cakes, gingerbread houses and much much more. Bring your purses along and spend up BIG!

See how the students have progressed with their cooking and baking skills. Support them by buying their wonderful products, and save yourself a lot of time in the kitchen too.

Thursday 6th December 2012
11.00 - 4.00
Drysdale (Polytechnic)
59 Collins Street

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Went to another of those absolutely wonderful little hidden treasures in Tasmania on Friday.

We spent four days at Swansea, which, by the way, is preparing for a bumper tourist season with a good start. Some new eating businesses and some old ones with new owners make for an exciting summer up the coast – making Swansea an excellent watering hole for us eaters! Felicity’s, just along from Banc towards the water, is highly recommended for both its vintage wares and food. Browse and eat – what more could you want? Banc has a new owner, and a newly installed wood fired pizza oven. Where Ci Simon was is now a gallery/café, and the former Trellis is now Onyx Providore. The former Ebb is about to commence trading mid-December with two partners from Launceston who already operate a restaurant there. They are expanding to Swansea, and it looks promising. Best spot in town for a restaurant, I reckon.

Anyway, all that aside, I had heard snippets about Tombolo at Coles Bay, but it was uncharted waters as far as I was concerned, and I instinctively knew it had all the earmarks of a great place, given that one of the people involved in it is Shannon, who previously worked front of house at Saffire, and in fact looked after us extremely well when Rita and friends dined there after they first opened.

Shannon was serving morning teas at Tombolo when we arrived in Coles Bay, and we popped in to make a reservation for lunch and check out the menu (in order to salivate for a while!). They start lunches at 12.00, so this gave us time to walk the dog, and ourselves, along the beach.

I was surprised at how busy they were, for such a small establishment, during the period we were there. Lots of tourists, as well as locals popping in for a coffee, or a meal, and I now understand exactly why!

The food was absolutely superb. I could not fault a thing, and nor could Bec. The menu is simple and straightforward. Only about six or seven items on it, and catering for those with a vegetarian desire as well. For such a small space, this is obviously the most sensible and practical way to go when you have a café like that, but I have seen many places of similar size trying to cram appetizers, entrees, mains and desserts onto a menu which must be a nightmare for poor old chef in the kitchen trying to order, prep and cook for such a large variety of food.

Bec selected a steak sandwich with chips – which may well sound mundane to you, good reader, but the difference between this model and others was a world away! For a start it was contained in a lovely crusty white bread roll. The steak contained therein was fillet steak, thus making it the most tender (ergo chewable!) steak sanger ever. It was topped with caramelized onion, a fried egg, tomato, cheese and lettuce. All were top notch ingredients, and not the usual shitty pap which cafes usually fob you off with when you order something like that. From memory it was $14, with the chips, and Bec declared it the best steak sandwich she had ever eaten (mind you, anyone would triumph when she mostly devours Mykonos steak sangers!!). I had a bite and totally agreed with her anyway.

I was torn between a few great sounding menu items but ended up, strangely, deciding on the Beef Curry. I use the word ‘strangely’ because I assumed that at one of Tasmania’s top coastal towns I would elect to eat some form of fish, but in this instance didn’t. It was superb. Mild enough for anyone’s palate (but not too mild): the meat slow cooked so not at all chewy, the sauce a beautiful foil for the rice and poppodums. At $18, the amount on the plate was enough for anyone to feel they were getting value for money, but not too much that you didn’t feel like going off to do some afternoon rambling along a beach, or to Freycinet’s Wineglass Bay.

We drove back to Swansea with a few stopovers en route: firstly at Freycinet Oyster Farm to buy fresh scallops ($11 per 250 gms) and a freshly caught and cooked crayfish at $68! Then at Gala Vineyard for a tasting, leaving with a Reisling and Pinot, then another stop at Milton Vineyard for another tasting, and an Iced Reisling and Pinot! The two women doing the tastings at both vineyards were delightful, mega-friendly and sold their product knowledgeably and well. None of that superior attitude I have observed at some vineyards whilst the tastings are conducted.

We were delighted that on that very day last Friday, the Tasmanian Government had finally declared the fish from the area (after much testing) able to be eaten again following the recall a few weeks ago of all the local products (notably Spring Bay Mussels) from the waters in that area.

On Saturday we whizzed up to Bicheno to check out the Wine and Food Festival – a mini version of Taste of Tasmania. It was great if you like that sort of thing, but I’m sure my regular readers are aware of my dislike of events like this, so I sat peacefully, on my own, in the shade with the dog, reading and enjoying the spectacle of others so happily engaged in eating, drinking and listening to live music. There is a place for all of us in this world, luckily!

Tombolo Cafe
6 Garnet Avenue
Coles Bay
Ph 6257 0124

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Amigos? Oh no, we're not!

Always on the hunt for good palatable food, Tuesday night found a group of us eating at Amigos in North Hobart. Since Tacos closed down, we only have the one Mexican option in town if we feel a taco or enchilada craving coming on! So Amigos it was.

There were eight of us and we ordered a good cross section of food from the menu, so I looked forward to seeing a tasty selection of Mexican food arrayed on the table.

On Tuesday nights, they have a special menu of 3 courses for $22 which contains a small example of some of their typical food. Two of our party opted for that menu with the rest of us ordering off the normal menu. I tasted the dips, and found them extremely lacking in any kind of imagination at all. They could have been so much tastier but, I suppose in the interests of keeping the costs down, they opted for sloppy and boring. The addition of a few spices, plus the chef actually tasting them, would have improved them no end.

The Amigos version of garlic bread ($5.50) with salsa, herbs, garlic and cheese was served, as well as a pinto bean dip ($11) which was quite nice. I had a beef taco for entrée ($5) in the interests of experimentation, as I often make tacos at home, and was curious as to how my home made babies measured up to the pro jobs. As modest as I am, I must say that mine stand out head and shoulders above Amigos!

The nachos ($9) were disgusting. The minimal amount of cheese on the corn chips was overcooked, ensuring you didn’t get that yummy runny cheese action as you pick out your corn chip to dip in the salsa and sour cream, so you were left with dry unappetizing nachos. Nachos were one of the biggest sellers at my café and if I had 5c for every plate of nachos I’d ever made, I’d be in the Bahamas now, so I can assure you I know my nachos, and no plate I ever made was as bad as that one at Amigos. Big thumbs down for those!

For mains, everyone’s food appeared to be a slight variation on the theme – they all looked similar, and most probably tasted the same too. We had Enchilada, Chimichangas ($19.50), Faijitas and Fajitas Pollo Mariscos ($20) which was a seafood dish served on a sizzle platter.

The food was very mediocre. It was mass produced food designed to appeal to the most diverse range of Hobart’s population (maybe the Maccas crowd?) and stunningly unspectacular. For a lover of Mexican food, this was most definitely not a shining example of same.

The service was SO slow, especially as they have the most constant stream of takeaway orders being telephoned in, and customers coming in to collect their takeaways. It was the most unrelaxing evening I’ve had for a long time, and exactly the opposite of a good night out, for me anyway. But, I’m positive it’s a money spinner for the owner, and in Hobart’s current economic climate, that would have to be a bonus!

Amigos Restaurant
329 Elizabeth Street
North Hobart
Ph 6234 6115

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Anatolia Restaurant 2012

Had an interesting meal the other night at Anatolia in North Hobart. Some of the food was outstanding, while other aspects were abysmal.

I’ll set the scene for you. We are the first diners to arrive, and in fact are the only customers in the place for the duration of our meal there. Hence it would be reasonable to assume we would be on the receiving end of some good hospitality customer service – not so. We had to wait a good 15 minutes after we finished eating each course for the plates to be cleared, and further questioning from waitperson/owner as to whether or not our needs were being met.

Wanting to try and sample as much a cross section of their food as we could, we ordered, to start with, a shared Seafood Gourmet Platter ($15 pp) which comprised a king prawn each, a natural oyster each topped with a heavy-ish oil mix, and two small round shallow dishes, one containing a tomato-based sauce with marinated octopus, and the other containing a creamy sauce with mussels and diced fish. On the side of the platter was what the menu describes as “spoon salad” – god knows what that is, but it was awful. It presented like a salad I had made yesterday and accidentally left out on the bench overnight – with torn lettuce leaves, and a few other typical salad ingredients all looking quite unappetizing and wilted, and tasting worse. It was dressed with a bitter dressing, and one that did absolutely nothing to enhance the food.

The tomato-y octopus, the creamy mussel and fish ‘stew’ (for want of a better descriptor) and the prawns were fabulous, and I would return any time for those. Half way through eating these, we requested some Turkish bread to sop up all the sauce – an inspired idea, and one they should incorporate into the menu description. Leave out the crap salad and add some hot bread! Yummo!

For mains, we both ordered the Anatolian Mixed Grill Platter ($38), as it sounded good, and I remembered fondly years ago having the same menu item there (under previous owners) and thoroughly enjoying it.

The menu describes it as containing lamb cutlet, chicken shish, Turkish meatball and prawn, and that’s indeed what it did contain, along with another generous helping of the ubiquitous bitter salad! All were fine, with the lamb cutlet being cooked medium, the chicken kebab and the prawn well done, and the meatball ditto.

The mains were a slight disappointment, as they weren’t (in our opinions) as tasty as the great entrée, but I’m sure if we hadn’t had the seafood entrée previously, we would have been very happy with our mains.

The menu itself reads extremely well, with pretty well all menu items being ones I’d love to have been able to try.

But – and there is a huge ‘but’ – the atmosphere was what I can only describe as ‘weird’. From a previous random conversation with the owner, I knew that the current owners have come from overseas/mainland with no previous experience in hospitality. They were intending retiring, as they are of that age, then decided to buy Anatolia and take on a life as restaurateurs.

Unfortunately the overarching ‘old peoples’ attitude and logic applies to a lot of their approach to the restaurant business, and, being an old person myself, I well recognize the signs!

No music in a deserted restaurant room is noticeable. The owners (being the only waitstaff working that evening) sitting down in the restaurant and eating their evening meal is something I have never seen before. Yes – many restaurant owners/managers sit down in their restaurant and eat, but it’s usually when they have other staff rostered on working, or they join a friend or guest at a table and eat or drink with them. That made it awkward when we (as customers) wanted to ask for something (ie bread, or another drink, or a look at the dessert menu) and knew we were going to have to ask our waitperson who was sitting across the room at another table eating, and disturb them while they were eating their meal!

Look – good luck to them, and may they prosper, but despite some good food there, I would have to think seriously about a return visit there, or ensure I was there on a busy Friday night – just for the atmosphere!

Anatolia Restaurant
Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine
321 Elizabeth St
North Hobart
Ph 6231 1770

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Restaurants, cafes and social media

Another Facebook debacle about an eatery in Hobart today has got me thinking about the whole social media thing, and the reasons as to why an eatery might want to create a Facebook presence.

It seems to me that if you’re:
*positive you have a product worth promoting (ie your food and service)
*have the time to devote to constantly keep an eye on your Facebook page
*continually keep your eatery in the forefront of peoples minds with daily Facebook specials, highlights of good things happening at your business etc
*and can respectfully and promptly respond to any negativity online (ie hose it down instantly)
you should be fine.

I am Facebook friends with, for instance, Aproneers and Chado. Both places regularly update their Facebook page with great daily specials, good news, informative notes about products, and generally keep in touch with their ‘fans’, as do Dr Syntax Hotel, also a favourite of mine.

Todays shitfight was at the Facebook page of the New Sydney Hotel. It started with a comment by a female member of a group of eight who arrived at NS for a meal in the upstairs function room last night, and who went to the bar downstairs to order their drinks/meals. Only one of the females in the roughly same aged group was told she had to produce some ID before the barmaid would serve her. She explained that her ID was upstairs in her bag, and (presumably) that she was 18 (because she was!). This was apparently unacceptable to the barmaid. The manager was called and he too was equally unhelpful and rude to the customers. It seemed to end with the barmaid telling the group to “piss off”.

Apparently a photo was posted as well, but I didn’t see that. I was too busy reading the 65 comments – most of which were extremely negative about both the service and food at NS, and in some cases, quite derogatory about NS staff – including one which read that the comment-poster had been raped by a staff member there, and another comment which told us that Al (owner) was a twat, and asking for Gary to be bought back!

By mid afternoon, the site had been removed, and replaced with a squeaky clean, new page, with no bad words or opinions on it at all.

But guys, the damage, once again, as in the case of Gilby’s a few weeks ago, is done.

If you, as a restaurant owner or manager, feel the need to keep up with the trend of creating a Facebook page for your business, you can’t just start it up and occasionally look at it out of curiosity every now and then. It’s a marketing tool, if used well, and can serve your business extremely well, if you manage it properly.

Nominate someone (either your partner, or a reliable staff member, or friend you trust) who is good with words and will keep a close eye on the site, and keep you informed as to what is being said in a public forum about your business, so that the minute someone adds a complaint about your product, you can address it instantly and politely.

Even if you might think that a critic of your business should “get a life”, that is most definitely not the wording to respond to a criticism on Facebook (as Gilby’s did).

Wise up  restaurant and café owners of Hobart! Get your collective acts together and use this wonderful tool correctly. It’ll assist keeping your business afloat if you do.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gilby's controversy

It was with great interest that I accessed Facebook on Thursday night, having been alerted by a friend that there was a furore going on at the Facebook site of Gilby’s Restaurant on the East Derwent Highway at Lindisfarne.

What I read there astonished me.

OK, so it’s normal for people to either criticize or compliment a restaurant or café, depending on what sort of time the recipients had at the establishment. That’s acceptable, and to be expected. It has gone on since time immemorial, and will continue long after we are all long gone. (I am imagining a cave-family in olden times, with mum standing over the fire in their cave, bbq-ing dads recently dispatched feral pig for the family meal, then clonking dad over the head with a large bone from said pig after he whinged that she hadn’t cooked it long enough and had broken one of his teeth on it!)

But it was the initial reaction to a comment added to Gilby’s Facebook page which astounded me. Never, in all my years of socializing, fraternizing, working and networking here in Hobart, have I ever seen a response like Gilby’s, from a restaurant owner to a reasonable criticism from a customer.

The first few comments (which eventually totalled 88, at last viewing) read thusly:

Susan Storr said:
“Apparently you can't get water (and I am talking tap water) at Gilby's unless you are drinking alcohol. Yesterday a friend of mine and two other ladies were there for afternoon tea (coffee and cake) and one of the ladies (who incidently has a serious medical condition) required some water. She was grudgingly given a half a small glass of tap water and the other two ladies were NOT offered water. I have never heard of this anywhere else in Australia or New Zealand. Buck up your ideas Gilby's; bad news travels fast!”

Gilby’s replied:
“Hi Susan if you want water stay at home and drink your fill!”

Susan replied with:
“WOW, what a pathetic response to a genuine grievance. Prior to this water incident which was experienced by a friend and not me personally, I had eaten at Gilbys at least 8 times and had recommended the restaurant to many people. Your PR skills are sadly lacking and whoever you are have the intestinal fortitude to put your name to this negative and seemingly unintelligent comment instead of "hiding" under the "umbrella" of the restaurant name.”

……and so it continued on…….
I made a comment on my personal Facebook page, and many of my friends who happened to read Facebook on Thursday evening, took my advice, went to the Gilby’s page, read it, and returned to agree with me in expressing their disgust at Gilby’s response to the criticisms levelled at them. Everyone, on both the Gilby’s page, and my Facebook page, quite definitively stated that, given the response by Gilby’s which they had read with their own eyes (ie, it wasn’t something they read about in The Mercury, secondhand), they would never eat there or recommend it to anyone.

My question: given that Hobart is indeed so small, how could Gilby’s possibly think they can trade their way out of this? How could a business owner in this current economic climate respond to a customer in the way they did, above?

Absolutely, gobsmackingly amazing!

Anyway, it’s all philosophical now, as by yesterday (Friday) morning, Gilby’s Facebook page had been removed, and all evidence of controversy removed for posterity! It's almost like it never happened - except we know it DID!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Are you Australia's best home chef?

·      Upload your recipe to win over $100,000 worth of prizes including $50,000 worth of kitchen appliances
·      Launch of national food competition and community -
2nd October 2012: John Winning, CEO of Winning Appliances, has today launched Best Home Chef, a national cooking competition and community for food lovers to share recipes.
Best Home Chef is an online community where people can upload original recipes, hear from Australian chefs and learn more about cooking. Entrants also have the chance to win over $100,000 of prizes, including $50,000 worth of kitchen appliances.
Entering the competition and joining the community is as simple as registering and uploading an original recipe at  - whether it is a family recipe that’s been passed down, a new take on a classic or a truly innovative creation.
 How the Best Home Chef community and competition works:
 1.     Register at and upload an original recipe that costs no more than $80 to make.
2.     Rate, cook and review recipes - cook and rate recipes that have been uploaded by others within the community.
3.     Monthly prizes – prizes will be awarded to the top rating recipes for the month.
4.     Semi finalists – the top 25 recipes as voted by the community (based on ratings and reviews) by April 15, 2013, will become semi finalists.
5.     Grand finalists – six cooking mentors will then select the five best recipes to be involved in a live cook-off in May 2013. The cook-off will take place at the new Winning Appliances Redfern Showroom.
6.     Winner chosen at live cook-off – a judging panel of food critics will select the best dish at the live cook-off. The Best Home Chef winner receives $50,000 worth of state-of the-art cooking appliances while the runner-up will receive $25,000 worth of new cooking appliances.
Celebrity chef brand mentors include:
·      Peter Evans, My Kitchen Rules star (Wolf)
·      Mark Best, Chef at Marque Restaurant (AEG)
·      Adam D’Sylva, Chef at Coda Bar & Restaurant (Siemens)
·      Anthony Fischbeck, Australian Chef (Scholtès)
·      Luca Ciano, Chef Consultant (Smeg)
·      Massimo Mele, Ready Steady Cook star (Winning Appliances)
John Winning, CEO of Winning Appliances, said Best Home Chef is a competition designed for any Australian who has an original recipe and believes that food is best shared.  
 “Australians love good food and sharing it with family and friends. Whether it’s the humble Sunday family roast or grandma’s sought-after Pavlova recipe, cooking is deeply embedded in our culture. Best Home Chef is aimed at the heart of the Australian family home – the kitchen - and giving profile to the unsung food heroes.
 “Whether you are looking to update your kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances, share your recipes or realise your cooking dreams, Best Home Chef is the competition and community for you.
“Our research[1] indicates that over half of Australians (52%) eat their main meal at home seven days a week and a further 21% eat their main meal at home about six days a week. With more Australians opting to cook at home we want to provide a profile to the delicious and innovative meals that are being created. Today’s appliances are smarter and sleeker than ever before allowing home chefs to produce restaurant quality meals inside their very own kitchen,” said Mr Winning.
Best Home Chef is open to everyone – from occasional home chefs, to stay-at-home mums and dads, to food bloggers. The winner and runner-up prizes include a selection of products from Best Home Chef sponsors AEG, Smeg, Siemens, Scholtès and Wolf.
 Professional chefs can also enter Best Home Chef to win a $10,000 Winning Appliances voucher and the runner-up a $5,000 Winning Appliances voucher. To be eligible for the professional chef prizes, check the box “I am a professional chef,” when registering.