Don’t be a Goose…

Geese. Why did it have to be geese?

I was alarmed by the large, long-necked birds. Someone in my family once told me of a story from their childhood, and how they had been intimidated by geese at a farm… in fact geese tried to attack this family member! Do you know how they retaliated?

By summoning up all of their courage, grabbing the neck of one of the geese, and swinging it wide around and around in a circle before letting go, in a bid to say to that goose, AND all of the rest: “Don’t Mess With me.”

The family member in question was never bothered by this avian kind AGAIN.

Can you see how detrimental it is then that this story followed me over to The Big Goose farm, in the Spring school holidays?

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Why did it have to be geese?

But there were other animals to see and many other things to do. After we paid at the entry, one of us getting in for free due to my voucher from the Mornington Peninsula Penny Saver voucher book, we fed some donkeys and cows right on the entrance walk up…

Bypassed some more geese… (quickly)
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And had a look at the great old map to see where we would begin our day’s journey.

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(Baby girl pointing out where she wanted to go!)

Due to proximity, it was to be The Big Red Shed.

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All matter of small farm animals could be found in this petting barn, with keepers around to help with the more delicate of animals, such as young baby chicks. There was even a reptile room with lizards and snakes, for the more slithery-inclined folk amongst us.

We then headed towards the tractor ride. It was free and included in the ticket, but we had to wait the span of 20 minutes or longer, as the queue was long, and we watched two truck loads head around the grounds before it was finally our turn.

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Granted this was only because it was school holidays and a spectacularly sunny day, so I imagine if you were to arrive at a quieter time there would be no delays in jumping on board.

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It wasn’t the most awe-inspiring of truck rides, but for kids, yeah it was good. ‘Freebies’ are always welcome, and we got to view the camels as we rode past them too. It was generally a ride of the grounds and some passing animals in their enclosures. If you miss it, it’s not the be all and end all.

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What we did pay extra to do, which I did up at the entry window, was an extra $5 for a pony ride. The line for this is beside the tractor rides, and even though it was fairly cheap, because it was additional the line wasn’t long and soon baby girl was strapping on her helmet.

Oh my Lordy. So bloody cute. She took to it like a horse to saddle 😉

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At this stage we were both having a great ol’ time in the sun. It was impossible to walk by the jumping pillow, without jumping…

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So of course that is what she did. The jumping pillow area has an assortment of tables and green areas for parents to sit and chill while their offspring go psycho. And be assured, there was a ‘Big Goose’ staff member jumping alongside the kiddos, just making sure, you know, things didn’t get out of hand… we don’t want outrageous big jumpers now, do we?

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The jumping pillow was also beside a tyre maze course which we didn’t get to try…

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… only because after so many activities and time in the sun, I absolutely imposed a shade and food curfew.

Lucky us there was a café on site.

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The Rotunda Cafe houses a variety of day hot specials alongside other lunch regulars, and I got a calamari salad while baby girl got chips. It was nice to be out of the sun for at least a bit, and I had to promise baby girl that we would be back for that ice cream everyone was walking out with.

Next… the reptile show!

Now this was pretty interesting. The guy running it was very informative and engaging as we sat with the kids watching snakes crawl up his arms, legs, body, the wall… it was interesting yet freaky stuff. Baby girl even got called alongside some other kids to hold this giant long snake’s body, but at the sight of it she freaked out and pulled the pin immediately.

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You won’t be surprised to hear we soon left and got ice cream. Ha ha. But the show was, really quite good.

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With our ice creams we now scoured the grounds, free from any activities or set places calling us.

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We looked into bird enclosures.

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We went into another petting zoo enclosure and fed A LOT of goats.

We appreciated the serenity of the scenery.

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And we carefully stayed away from all the wild wandering geese on the grounds, more so after observing all the signage telling us to watch out for them!

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(duly noted goose in background!)

It had been a really full couple of hours, and having not even been there all day, I felt I had already gotten my money’s worth from the (half) entry price. As a final resort, baby girl went into the playground area, which was a crafty set-up of climbing apparatuses, a high enclosed bridge that led to a winding slide, and a grand selection of things to climb, swing, jump and land on.

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A great play area, in that it was completely enclosed from the sun, and any foul weather on what might be an otherwise cold and rainy day. Many families and parents were set up around this area, as not only did it provide shelter from any elements, but its enclosure meant it was safe.

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A mini golf area led out back out to the entrance we had walked in from, but really for us, it was time to go. We had worn ourselves out and were quite happy to be escorted by some geese at the gate…

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We walked that much faster out of there after remembering the words of a boy from the reptile show, who had kindly offered the nuggets of info that some of the geese had been posed to attack since people were getting too close. Thanks little dude. I needed to hear that.

The deets!

The Big Goose is at 233 Mornington-Tyabb Road Moorooduc.

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They are open Wednesday to Sunday in the warmer months

Thursday to Sunday over Winter

But on the school holidays they are open every day!

Times? 10-4pm.

Prices: Adult $18, Children $14 (under 2 is free), and Seniors $14

Check their website at www.thebiggoose.com.au for more info on family entry prices and updated info regarding seasonal entry times.

What else is there?

Well we didn’t get to see it all because there is really so much to see and do. Apart from all of the above that we got to experience…

You can buy some kangaroo food and walk through the wildlife park to feed them.

You can get wet at the splash park!

You can throw a birthday party or host a function.

And for super keen Geese, there is even an annual pass you can purchase which will save you loads.

Tips:

There is a lot of dirt and sand around. Closed-toe shoes will save you from dirty feet.

Sunscreen and hats are a must in warmer months, especially if you have to wait in a queue at all. A drink bottle won’t hurt either.

You can even bring your own picnic and enjoy on any of the grassy areas… but you won’t be able to get past that Rotunda café ice cream 😉

Watch out for the Geese!

With both indoor/outdoor areas, areas to keep all kids, both young and old entertained, with places to sit and eat and relax, this place really is a great one-stop shop for the whole family. And for the price to enter, it is relatively cheap for what you can get if you spend the whole 6 hours there.

The Big Goose really does have it all. And unfortunately for me, that also means ACTUAL Geese! 🦆🦆🦆😆😆😆

 

 

 

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Mi Burrito

Mi Mexiko
25 Main Street Mornington

(Visited November ’17)

Do you always need a reason to dine out? Nah. This reason of nothing, and the added effect of having not much to do already on that sunny Spring Sunday in November, had us wandering over to Mi Mexiko on the main street.

At first, I was a little concerned. Could we find something to please even our most fussiest of eaters palate?

Why, yes. And baby girl would have something too.

Our second fussiest person was kept entertained with much appreciated textas and drawing paper, something that makes all parents sigh in relief when it is brought over. I don’t have enough mobile data for all her youtube vids EVERY time.

Whereas our first most fussiest, Hubbie, started off with a straight scotch, and then a pale ale to chase with. Me, I opted for something green and fresh, much like the day happening around us.

A seis de mayo cocktail – lime, mint and soda.

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Of course we had to get nachos of some kind to nibble on, this was the place for it! The music was traditional to the theme and had a great party vibe, and it filled up the otherwise empty restaurant that afternoon. Sure there were people dining outside, but while there, we were only one of very few who had arrived for that Sunday afternoon thus far.

So, the corn chips were great.

Corn chips, guacamole, salsa fresca – smashed avocado, lemon & lime, fresh tomato salsa, corn chips

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I had to avoid the guacamole underneath, because Avocado-aversion-that-makes-me cry-and-hold-my-stomach-in-pain-for-3-hours-after-eating-it (don’t cry for me Avocado), but the salsa onion and tomato dip on top, and the crunchy corn chips were so good, honestly that was a meal in itself and so yummy. Baby girl didn’t realise how great it tasted until we were almost done, and just as well as she would have left us with NONE.

But it was ok, because the mains were near.

First baby girl’s arrived. I had been after something fairly plain for her, because you know, kids, and 4, and somehow those two things together makes for one hell of a fussy eater. No sauces, no condiments, no dressings, no funny business of any kind! I had to make sure the mayo in her meal was on the side before ordering.

Fried chicken taco, lemon mayo and crispy fried potatoes.

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But having said that, it was actually a really, really good kids meal. She demolished the warm taco bread, and after I tried a nibble I could see why. So moorish. She even had a great attempt at her potatoes and chicken, but the mayo…

Yeah that remained uneaten. Like I said, no funny business at this age stage.

Hubbie got the Chipotle chicken (burrito) – Chipotle grilled chicken, quinoa, peppers, corn, cactus, guacamole, salted ricotta, salsa verde

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And I got the Fried cauliflower (burrito) – tamarind cauliflower fritters, smoked eggplant, quinoa, sweet potato, jalapeno salsa, salted ricotta, salsa verde

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Both were great burritos, but I found Hubbie’s the superior one when I took a bite of his. However, it was a good thing that I didn’t order that for myself, since I realised in my bite that I had swiftly missed a portion of guacamole in there! Just as well. Mine was very vegetable-orientated, and with all the tangy and salty tastes springing forth, you couldn’t say it wasn’t flavoursome! It was quite strong though. I still enjoyed it, but if I could do it again, I would have opted for Hubbie’s chicken burrito, minus the guacamole. It was still a filling, and very pretty meal.

We had had no plans to dine out, and we still had no plans for afterwards… so we decided to follow suit in our randomness, and go and get ice cream.

Food: 7.5/10. Fresh, exciting, and inviting.

Coffee: N/A on this occasion.

Ambience: Lively, even though there wasn’t many people around! The restaurant soon filled up as the day wore on, and on both sides of that the Mexican/Spanish music filled the place with lots of get-up-and-dance vibes. Loved it. Also, it was still easy-going enough that you didn’t feel like you had to get up and stand on the table, you know?

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People: Couples outside and inside, and families. Catch-ups and family gatherings make it a fun place to dine at.

Staff: A very mixed bag here. Considering they were very quiet when we first arrived, many staff found it difficult to display courteousness. One waitress delivering food to tables showed obvious annoyance in having to walk around me and baby girl when we were walking back from the toilet, and the same waitress very hastily shoved our plates down on the table when our food had arrived. Passive aggressive, yet so obviously the latter. Funny how this waitress had no time for querying customers when they were so quiet at the time. We had a lovely waitress almost make up for all of that who put our bill through at the end of the visit. But alas, sour notes linger. Management, tell your staff that the bubbly vibes your restaurant gives out can be easily burst by rudeness.

Price: $81.50 saw us have lunch, some nibbles and drinks. Prices were on par as lunch meals, and the kids meal came in at a very respectable $8.50, fantastic since the quality of what she received was right up there.

Advice: If you have no aversion to avocado, please go there and eat all the avocado (for me!) Otherwise try the corn chips, they are lip-smacking salty good. Sit inside at a window booth, you will have a wonderful vantage point through the hopefully open windows, along Main street and even further along.

In a nutshell: The prime location of this restaurant makes this the place to be, and an excellent meeting point amongst friends and groups. With its great lively vibe and bright location, it is a terrific Summer spot, and even in Winter, the music there would perk anyone right up. If staff can properly represent the atmosphere being presented by all else there, it could be an unbeatable combo. The flavour in the food is distinct, however there are options that could please even the most fussiest and unadventurous of eaters, though they are few. Mi will be back… eventually.

Mi Mexiko Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Green servings at Red Hill

Green Olive at Red Hill
1180 Mornington-Flinders Road Main Ridge

(Visited October ’17)

Our winery exploration continued. We had a free Sunday in October, and though a bit dreary at first, it was also a mild day.

We would wine and dine then.

I had heard about some kids activities, such as duck feeding and trampoline jumping on these Main Ridge fields, and when I saw I had a token for free duck food, it make up my mind EVEN more.

Ok, so really? We all know I didn’t need the duck food token to get ourselves quacking on over.

It was the promise of this:

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Once we had driven some distance through endless tree views, and then parked and walked down a long and sloping uneven gravel surface to the restaurant below us, only then did we get a chance to sample some of the above.

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Ahhh.

It was a busy day. We were amazed just how so, and managed to quickly nab ourselves a table outside where it was free for the picking. The inside tables were all full and reserved, and there were quite a few of them too. We grabbed one just outside of the main doors, and proceeded to try and open up the umbrella as precarious drops from the darkening heavens floated on down.

It never rained though, and so we were able to relax.

It is an order-up-at-the-counter establishment. Once we looked through the menus, scanned out toward the vineyards, and looked through the menus again, I headed on inside to place our orders.

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The store is inside as you line up to order, featuring all of the farm-made produce such as their dukkah, olives, oil, and other fine deli produce. Positioning is fantastic especially on a day like that was, as you had a lot of time to fall in love with the various olive bowls, gourmet pastas and even body creams up for sale as you waited in line.

Fantastic strategy for them. Not a good thing FOR ME.

But I controlled myself, and focused on the outcome ahead of me. Order the food. It took a good while, but finally I was at the counter and baby girl and I were ordering our drinks and food.

Which brings us back to the above image. Now as Robert Zemeckis would be proud to hear me say, Back to the Future.

I got some drawing paper and pencils from a ’help yourself’ area inside the café, and then as baby girl got drawing, we observed the quirky garden elements/accessories around us as we waited for our drinks, which took a bit as they were so busy… A 2017 Moscato for me, and a Mornington Peninsula Pale Ale for Hubbie:

It was fabulous. A sorta sunny Sun-day, out with the fam, enjoying the increasing Melbourne warmth, wine… why, it was divine.

The setting was fabulous, but how would the food fare?

The food is tapas style, but we weren’t overly hungry so we were content to get a piece for each of us and share as we pleased. It was hard to find something for baby girl, so we ended up getting some bread and dip, used the dip ourselves and let her dig into the bread. Ahhh, good ol’ carbs.

Beetroot hummus dip, extra virgin olive oil, farm dukkah, ciabatta

and alongside that was Hubbie’s selection of a BBQ Pulled Pork open sandwich, pickled carrot, chilli salt

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And then my choice was Egg frittata filled with garden vegetables, farm made capsicum relish

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They were tapas, and they were presented nicely, but for what we got, we felt $12.95 each was a tad steep. The group of rich older Italians behind us (don’t ask how we know, we just do) also agreed. The older man who reminded Hubbie of his old boss, was saying loudly how they had just spent $200 on tapas between the group of them and were still hungry (see that’s how we know, typical Italians).

Although the food was ok, not amazing but still good, we were still infuriated by the antics of another fellow European on a nearby table. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know. She was with her husband and child, and she was wearing white pants.

You know who wears white pants? Really young teenage girls, extreme beach-dwellers (generally pensioners)… and Europeans.

Also we could hear a slight accent.

She was really horrible. She had a gripe about something, and I do not lie, but she complained and had two different waitresses come over to listen to her whinge on at least 5 separate occasions. She would not let up. It was upsetting to witness for the poor waitresses, and she looked a total mole so I was in total support for the staff. We were trying to eavesdrop as all good people do, thinking she clearly wore the (white) pants in the relationship, when her husband even started up! OMG just go away. Their problem was food-related, and though I wasn’t exactly dancing myself in the seat from the taste sensations in my mouth, I also wasn’t a horrible person to blame the waitress for thinking my meal should be otherwise. There is a way to distribute criticism, and white pants lady, her way was just SHIT.

Hubbie and I were so peeved at their unrelenting and non-stop negativity that WE almost told them to leave. It affected our mood, but we got coffee and dessert and tried to put her white pants and snarky voice behind us.

The cappuccinos were satisfactory as was the babycino (established by how quickly she smashed it down), and the ice cream also so. We held the sauce on the ice cream for baby girl, and I had the coffee crème brulee with biscotti on the side which most definitely had the caffeine kick, whereas Hubbie had a counter brownie – not anything amazing he said.

After that was done we soon claimed our duck food with voucher (detouring off to the in-ground trampoline below the café that baby girl went psycho on for 5 minutes) before we headed down to the lake.

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It had been a mixed duck-bag of experiences. The setting was amazing and worth the visit. We weren’t sure about the food, and were wondering if we had ordered something else, whether that would have been more to our liking.

These thoughts were on our minds as we headed back home…

Food: 7/10. It was ok, but compared to the scenery before us, it was slightly underwhelming.

Coffee: 7.5/10.

Ambience: It was a very relaxed yet refined vibe. Very refined. You were amongst the vineyard and trees and all-round greenery, and yet this greenery had $ attached. See below.

People: We were in Main Ridge, and the people representing showed us we were not in Kansas (or Mornington) anymore with their super designer threads and fancy-schmanc handbags.

Staff: They were exceptionally busy, but good. The manager or boss (don’t ask me, I just know) helped fix our umbrella for us, and the rest were just doing their job on that exceptionally busy Sunday.

Price: I wasn’t keeping receipts each time we ordered, and the girl behind the counter wasn’t offering either – a clever tactic perhaps to keep you from keeping score, or just busy? – but I kept score, and it tallied to about $95. A bit much for tapas, even with alcohol included. That price should have given us larger meals.

Advice: 1) Sit outside on a sunny day, 2) if going on the weekend with a larger group perhaps best to book ahead, and 3) just keep in mind that you might need to order multiple tapas to fulfill your hunger. The accompaniment of wines will make you need MORE.

In a nutshell: It is a lovely place to while the day away on a sunny day, whether with family or friends, or let’s face it even by yourself as all busy Mums will attest. And it is super kid-friendly in the ‘activities’ department, what with the drawing accessories, trampoline and duck feeding on offer, as well as all the walks you can take exploring the grounds which we didn’t end up doing.

The food store itself gives me reason to go back, but food wise, I’ll probably check out all the other Hills on the Peninsula, Red or otherwise, before going back to taste-test their other menu options…

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Green Olive at Red Hill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

‘Botham’s Up’ for Father’s Day

Hickinbotham of Dromana
194 Nepean Highway Dromana

(Visited September ’17)

We had still NOT been to a winery. In the 11 months following our Sea Change, we hadn’t as much as suggested it, researched it, let alone GONE to one.

Then, Father’s Day was approaching. And this coincided with an online post I had read, that mentioned kid-friendly wineries on the Peninsula.

What?! Our time had come.

And so it was. Hickinbotham was the first one I called off of the kid-friendly list, and they were more than happy to have us for their 11am set lunch on Father’s Day. Hubbie didn’t know where we were going, and even though it wasn’t the nicest of Dad’s days, as we arrived amidst the cold, wind and occasional rain…

… He still smiled at the surroundings. He was really pleased.

I had done well (go me 🙂 )

We were in fact, the first ones to arrive that Sunday. We were seated immediately, and had a good look around the restaurant, taking it all in.

Though restaurant wasn’t quite the word. Sure, the tables were set up nicely, paper table-clothed and all. There was a long bar in the middle of the room, and behind that what appeared to be a tasting area, a large shed/warehouse-type room, with barrels evident from where we sat.

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Wooden tones were everywhere. But this wasn’t a renovated, wooden-accented place. No, this wood had been there for years.

And years and years.

Because that’s what this place was, authentic. You could tell that you had stepped back in time, not too far, but far enough to understand that a winery had been there in place for a long time, way before people started coming in to dine. It was old, vintage, and polished.

There were two other seating areas I could see… one immediately to the front of us, that was completely covered, and another off to the side, which too was sheltered, yet opened up into the greenery outside.

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Shotgun outdoor area on a sunny day. Just putting it out there.

Since it was 11am, and a tad before our usual eating time of 1pm, we decided to just opt for the 2 course menu, rather than do the 3 courses.

First up, some drinks please.

A glass of 2016 Pinot Gris for me; and a pint (ALL the men there were soon getting pints) of Hix Pilsener, Silver medal Royal Sydney Show 2014

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Can I just say it was super exciting to be drinking beverages from the local wine/beer-makers there themselves. We were giddy, and although we had ordered our mains, the alcohol went to our heads and suddenly we were hungry!

Baby girl had received some crackers and dips as part of her kids package that day

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And we all kind of dipped into that one (thanks Pinot Gris)

By this stage the place was filling up. There were Dads galore, and the waitresses were wishing everyone a Happy Father’s Day on arrival.

The fireplace had been lit, and was getting stoked, but the fire just wasn’t taking, so the group of people seated beside us took it upon themselves to re-stoke it.

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It was a beautiful old fireplace, and the warmth that emanated from it was very much required that day.

Soon, the food!

I had ordered the succulent baked chicken breast, kipflers with bacon and thyme, garden greens, chicken jus

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Hubbie had ordered the 250gm grass fed scotch fillet, dauphine fat chips, baby sprouts with Portobello, béarnaise

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And Baby girl had the pleasure of her all-time fave dish… pasta

Spiral pasta with bolognaise sauce

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(Oh woe is me. Back to the time where baby girl actually had sauce with her pasta).

Baby girl happily lapped up her pasta while she watched other children playing with toys on youtube. Of course.

Hubbie was pleased with his steak and how it was cooked, but questioned whether it was in fact, 250gm… otherwise he enjoyed it, yet he left behind a fat chip for me to enjoy… oh my. It was thick and creamy, and all I can say is dauphine chips are the BOMB. They were that GOOD.

Crisp potato puff… mmmmm.

And I loved my meal. It was comforting and warm, the chicken was most certainly succulent, and the jus? Amazing. I dragged my vegies and chicken ALL through the jus, trying my best to soak up every last drop. Yum.

We were very content, but what is a special occasion without dessert? We had spent a good deal of the past month hibernating, accepting and allowing the cold to pass, and also hoping that once that most-coldest of cold seasons was over, baby girl would also be more mature, and happily sit with us as we dined out throughout the Peninsula, ALL through Spring and Summer.

She is well-acquainted with the phone though, so…. say what you like. We were ALL happy then.

We ordered coffees too, and then it all started to arrive:

I had a cap, while Hubbie had a STRONG, heart-shaped latte:

Baby girl had a babycino accompany her kids dessert, which consisted of vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake, marshmallows and snakes

Hubbie ordered the Passionfruit tart, burnt meringue, coulis, clotted cream

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And I had Jo’s stunning chocolate mousse cake, pistachio crunch, two types of raspberry

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Firstly, can I say, when I hear the words ‘chocolate mousse’ my head almost swivels Exorcist-style. True story. I enjoyed the light, yet decadent mousse component, and the base was most definitely crunchy… not sure if the combination worked completely, I understood the textures being in contrast to one another… but sometimes you just need some cream alongside your chocolate-whatever. I appreciated it nonetheless. I had to bypass my 3 raspberries sitting a-pretty on top, ever since that fateful day when I ate a whole punnet of raspberries one night, and then felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable, went to the loo, and promptly threw up the whole thing. I then proceeded to feeling better instantly, and the incident was so bizarre I actually question whether it in fact happened or I just dreamt it all…

But I think, I have developed some kind of aversion to raspberries, or whatever thing it is inside them that irritates my stomach. I would have risked the 3 if we hadn’t had any other plans that day… but we did have plans, and I wasn’t going to ignore history/a bad dream and risk running to the bathroom.

Hubbie thought his passionfruit tart was ok… I think he is not a tart-y, or burnt meringue kinda guy, just saying. He is also an incredibly fussy guy. Just saying.

Baby girl enjoyed mixing every component of her dessert together until it developed into a gooey creamy mess, but funnily enough did not like the marshmallows then (she LOVES marshmallows) and until I tried one, I realised why – they were incredibly cold, either from the ice cream proximity, or what I believe, sitting in a fridge for a while? I otherwise thought it the perfect dessert for a child, just a colourful combination of bright and simple sweet things that children love.

We were now very full, with the added assistance of our caffeine hits, and decided it was time to pay.

Outside the rain had ceased, and now the sun glared down from in-between the clouds. Hubbie and baby girl ran around the yard, mucking about… and then it was time to go.

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Food: 8/10. I loved my chicken, and other components were amazing too. I would love to go there when there is not a set menu, to see how they go preparing and cooking food ‘on the fly.’

Coffee: 7.5/10. It was pleasant, not too strong, and smooth.

Ambience: Incredibly cosy. Honestly, I felt a bit like I was at my uncle’s old house down Warburton way. The abundant wood and fireplace gave it a real homely feel, and seeing the greenery and trees throughout the windows linked us to the outside, making it feel quite idyllic, and very appropriate, for a winery.

People: Being such a family day, there were families of all kinds EVERYWHERE. Young families, old families, families with extended family, smaller intimate families, and many kids too, which was further testament to the review I had read online.

Staff: They were incredibly attentive, polite and friendly, really fine service.

Price: $161. This consisted of mine and Hubbie’s 2 course set menus – both at $60 a head. Baby girl’s set 3 course meal was $29.50. Throw in some home-grown alcoholic drinks, coffees, and voila. Price is justified. Or is it? I think baby girl’s set price was on the upside… and if you break down each of our main and dessert meals to $30 each, I think it is STILL too high. But it is a winery, and so, you reach out into your handbag and pull out the dough (or in my case, the Eftpos card).

Advice: Maybe on weekends it would be best to call ahead in case they are busy, however there was an ample amount of seating in many areas, and they were all covered, so risking it shouldn’t do too much damage either.

In a nutshell: Although it was pricey, and Hubbie didn’t rave about his main meal, he absolutely loved the winery, and the beer. I too love the entire place. Being not too far from our house, with Spring on our doorstep (any day now Melbourne weather), we will definitely come back again. We’ve already planned to sit somewhere outside, in the afternoon sunshine, sipping on some lovely local produce and gazing at the views and water up ahead, while baby girl just RUNS with glee.

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So just pick up your glass and…

…Botham’s up.

Hickinbotham Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Spring Flower Festival of Silvan

Is it coincidence, or simply careful planning by the seasons, that there are an abundance of tulips ready to view and appreciate in Silvan come the September school holiday period?

How is it, that it is so perfectly timed? Tulips are planted before the colder months, and Spring-time seekers, (and those on school holidays) get to reap the rewards of the superbly bulbed flower?

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I have wanted to go to the Tesselaar Tulip Festival for a long time. I was fascinated by the story of the couple from Holland by the surname Tesselaar, and how they had planted tulips in their Silvan property long after first settling in Melbourne, after the outbreak of World War 2.

 

It is a common story to me, at least, the background is. A couple with a dream, a wish for a better life and hope for the future, leave their homeland behind to find opportunity elsewhere… my parents did this too, only they didn’t end up with hundreds of thousands of tulips across a 25-acre property, with tourists traveling from far and wide to witness their floral beauty!

It is certainly a fairy tale story. The couple’s acreage attracted so many passersby over the years, that they eventually opened their farm to eager eyes for a coin donation… it has evolved to the huge floral attraction that it is today, with people travelling from all over the country (I saw the interstate license plates with my own eyes!) to see the tulips in wondrous bloom.

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Baby girl and I attended the tulip festival in the first week of the school holidays, and it coincided with the ‘superhero week!’ What is ‘superhero week’ you may ask? Well all I can ascertain is that PJ Masks were in town, and they got them on board plus added in a few more kiddie activities to make it ‘superhero’-like!

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The great thing about this festival, is that it is so versatile. Superhero week becomes ‘Get Active’ week (Mon 1st – Thurs 4th October), and the weekends have their own special themes, with the one just passed being the ‘Food Wine and Jazz weekend,’ and the next one (Fri 5th – Sun 7th October) being the Irish Weekend.

There is sooo much to do, and it ain’t all tulips either. As already noted, the event occurs over the school holidays, though it is longer than two weeks, and as an adult visiting with kids, you can be assured they will be kept busy! The main stages have constantly-changing entertainment, there are roving princesses, workshops where you can create sand art, learn how to drum… then there are reptile displays, a petting zoo, face painters, and did I mention, the tractor ride?

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Check out my SmikG facebook page for the super-cool video. Hey, as the tractor jumped forward in its start-up around the expansive tulip field, even the adults shrieked in giddy excitement alongside the kids. True story. It probably fits about, oh, 20 people, and lasts all of 5 minutes, if that much, as it does an upside down U shape around the field. It is a heap of fun, the kids could have cared less as we went past the tulips, instead getting excited by the open-air and opportunity to wave at other tulip-viewers outside of the tractor, and meanwhile the adults just took it all in, appreciating the beauty, and revelling in the happy shouts of glee from their offspring.

You HAVE TO DO IT!

Toilets, food and drink are a plenty. Dutch-style cuisine, of Poffertjes, or as you and I may call them, ‘mini pancakes,’ are a must, and The Kibbeling Express, a Dutch-themed fish and chip shop also prominently features in the grounds. But never fear, if none of that tickles your fancy, there are your other cuisines, of Mac and cheese, hamburgers, scones, gozleme, spuds, and of course…

ICE CREAM!

:):):)

It was a wonderfully lazy and self-indulgent 20 minutes or so that baby girl and I spent licking our cones and cups in the sun.

There are opportunities to buy souvenirs, take home gardening tools, purchase your own seedlings, and did I mention the potted tulips?

I bought a pot for myself to take home, and actually have repotted them with purpose… to have them last a long time. I got a small leaflet with some tips on how best to keep them going on, but any decent gardening blog online will give you similar tips on extending the tulips life.

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The fairy shop is another cute place for the kids to enjoy, with little unicorns and fairy paraphernalia decorating the walls of the store. Just try leaving this place with your girl empty-handed. I know, as we now own a magical glittery pen.

:/

The effects of keeping your child entertained while on holiday, I know.

And, the whole reason for going, the ‘piece de resistance’ if you will, of the actual event?

Why, the Tulips of course.

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They surround the festival, however the major drawcard sits amidst the large field with rows upon rows of different coloured bulbs. A large windmill sits at the far end of the field, and various works of art are spotted throughout, to provide your eye with an alternative to the wondrous colour before you… not like you need it, but it is nice to take a break and look at something else interesting.

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This festival is huge, so take precaution when deciding when to go. The cars just keep coming, there are parking people organising where you can park, and then depending on what time you arrive and where you have parked, there will most likely be a short walk for you to make, so if with littlies that get easily bored or tired, you may need to take a pram (or your shoulders will feel the weight!)

By no means should any of this dissuade you – it is a festival for both young and old, with plenty to do and see that will interest people of ALL ages! In my eyes, it is actually a pretty perfect family day out 🙂

 

The deets!

The Tesselaar Tulip Festival is a September – October annual event, coinciding with the bloom of the flowers (and the school holidays!) Check their website for actual dates and theme-specific weeks and weekends.

https://tulipfestival.com.au/

Their address is 357-359 Monbulk Road Silvan.

It runs every day for about a month of the festival’s duration.

Getting there by car takes some time if you’re from Melbourne or even on the other side of it… but once you are in the Dandenong Ranges, man it is a beautifully scenic drive. You could easily make a day of it, or two or three (or a mini-break!) as there are some quaint and exquisite village-like places that you travel through to get there… Sassafras, Kallista, Monbulk… You could be forgiven for wanting to stop about 6 times before reaching your destination, so tranquil and serene is your drive and environment. The views are always so magical in the Ranges, and the day we drove there I had to contain my excitement and nostalgia in going through parts of the world that I had visited with Hubbie many times before, as I have by myself too.

Prices:

Adults are $28, Concession holders are $24, and Children 16 and under are Free!

(Which is why it is such a kid-happy place!)

RULES

Yes, I even have rules. Well their not just mine, the festival insists, with a smiley policeman cut-out and everything… baby girl observed it too…

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Please, for the love of God, KEEP OFF THE FLOWERS. It may seem obvious to most, but most people would not jump behind a rope where there is a sign of a person jumping over a rope with a BIG LINE THROUGH IT.

I saw some people disobey the sign for the sake of the perfect photo, and man oh man did I wish for some Dutch police to take them away and whip them with Poffertjes until they bled like strawberry jam… for the sake of respecting the Tulips, take your photos in front of the rope and not behind it… it is there for a reason after all.

And look! What do you know, a beautiful photo that wasn’t taken while standing on precious bulbs.

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Face palm. Some people.

Tips:

Be prepared to be out ALL DAY. That means comfy shoes, an easy and light bag, and water/snacks of some kind. Yes you can buy it all there, but you don’t wanna be running off to the food trucks when you are in the middle of a field of tulips now, do you?

They have a car park, AND an overflow car park. I suspect I was in the overflow carpark, and that was on a Thursday of the school holidays. My point is… come as early as you can, or try to avoid weekends and public holidays. If the car parks are full, they suggest you drive out to one of the quaint towns for a bit and then come back to try again. This seems absurd due to the sheer number of cars that clearly can fit there… but as I said again, it was a Thursday. And it was practically packed.

Bring your hat, sunscreen and sunnies. It can get a bit dusty, so closed-toe shoes may be the way to go.

And lastly, the MOST IMPORTANT word of advice… take home some tulips. You won’t regret it, trust me 😉

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A local on the Esplanade

Kirks on the Esplanade
774 Esplanade Mornington

(Visited October ’16)

We ventured to this hotel/pub style restaurant while still on hols… and by hols I mean in the deepest midst of never-ending unpacked boxes. I mean, when your kitchen stuff is God knows where, you really can’t cook up a meal, right? Especially when your potential dine-out view is something like this:

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Yep. It was freezing cold and windy as I stepped out of the car that evening mid-October, and yet I still had to brace myself just to take a photo of the most spectacular coastline.

I could definitely get used to those views.

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We headed into Kirks, and although we hadn’t booked ahead we still got a seat on that Tuesday night. We sat in the glass-house like section at the front of the restaurant, which in my humble opinion (and every other sane person’s I think) is the best seat in the house. There is seating behind this area, but the view of the water is further away, and really, unless you are sick of views like that (who are you, an alien?) I don’t know why you would choose to go anywhere else.

Although we received menus and all, and baby girl conveniently received one of those kid’s packs with crayons, stickers and activity paper, it was an order-at-the-counter type of establishment, so the food and drink were both ordered further into the restaurant behind us, with food at one section, and drinks ordered at the bar.

There are also toilets in between the bar and food ordering sections, while a TAB functions at the left of the establishment once you walk further up the stairs, operational every day of the week. This place has really got something for everybody. Food, alcohol, entertainment, and Port Phillip Bay views.

Hubbie got me a cab sav and himself a beer.

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The surroundings were peaceful, with definite locals around, now ourselves included (!) and there was a calm comfort in the air, the restaurant keeping the cold Spring air out and its inhabitants warm inside, with only the view of the water to remind them of the elements outside. It felt like a pub-style yet classy establishment.

Baby girl’s meal arrived first as requested, and it was hot!

Spaghetti with Napoli sauce

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She had also received a free drink as it was a kid’s meal special. She enjoyed her spaghetti, it was a hit with her, and the serving was definitely generous. With her main came our entrée, which was

Roasted pumpkin bruschetta – Oven-roasted pumpkin tossed with semi-dried tomatoes & basil served on mozzarella toasted ciabatta

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It was exactly as the description told us, with the pumpkin element adding a vegetable warmth usually missing in bruschetta options, and the mozzarella giving a good dose of cheesiness! It was a hearty meal, and we were already half way to full-ville when our mains arrived:

Hubbie’s YG Aged & Grain-fed Portland Scotch Fillet 300g with a red wine and mushroom sauce, with chips and salad

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And my Chilli Tiger Prawns, tossed in a cream & white wine sauce, served with fragrant jasmine rice & a side salad

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Hubbie thought his steak was amazing! Impressing the fussy butcher, WHAT?! Yep, you heard right. Although he had ordered his steak medium to well, it was a tad more medium… but that was acceptable. The other components on his plate were a bonus, because let’s face it, when a butcher orders steak, all we’re really gonna judge is the meat, right?

I had been longing for a classic style of chilli prawns. And this didn’t disappoint. The sauce wasn’t the most chilli-rific, but the prawns… there were 11 of them! Count that! That, made me happy. When I order prawn ‘whatever,’ I want prawns, and a decent quantity too. It was good to see that though the price was equally decent for an institution of that calibre, that the quantity of meal (and components on the plate) matched it. By the end, I was content.

After our decent meals, me giggling my way through the rest of my wine (the quantity of this was decent too, and got me fairly tipsy), and sitting back in our chairs observing the views outside, it soon grew too dark to see the water, and then it was time to go.

Food: 9/10. They are the classic pub-style generous sizes, jazzed up too because of the location and views. I give them a higher score, because of how well they received us on another visit… read on below…

Coffee: N/A, but mark my word I will try it one day soon!

Ambience: Casual and cosy. Intermittent laughter and louder than normal groups were heavily punctuated by longer silences and still moments when people were just chilling. I think being by the bay makes everyone feel that much calmer. You just stop, and stare.

People: Locals. Locals. Locals. Cold Tuesday night in October, who else but locals? There were a group of 3 guys near us, but predominantly there were older couples, and older groups… um, Mornington is a bit of a Pensioner’s Paradise. Is everyone aware of that? I mean, they even have a pensioner special! That’s telling you something.

There was also a Mum and son pairing, and then later, a family of 5 (applause to the parents) came to sit nearby as we were finishing up, but it was generally an older crowd about, and from repeated visits, we’ve noticed a $$$ one.

Staff: The staff provided friendly service, both in explaining to us straight-up after ascertaining we were new, how we had to order, and also by kindly giving the kids set to baby girl, without us even asking. God Bless. More on the exceptional staff below.

Price: The total price was approximately $120-130, being vague because there were two receipts when Hubbie put the orders through at the counter and bar respectively, and we didn’t keep both. Though Hubbie thought the price too much for pub-style surroundings, I reminded him we weren’t only paying for the food, but for the magnificent view. Something to keep in mind. I for one think it is worth it.

The only downside is the ordering up at the counter part for both drinks and food… it’s places like these you expect to pay a little less, rather than the amount we paid at Kirks.

Advice: Book ahead only so you can be assured a spot in the first sun-room section.

In a nutshell: We have been to this venue a few more times since our initial visit, which shows you without me saying, that we were more than happy to go back!

On one visit we received the most kindest and understanding staff, that I absolutely have to mention it here, and praise praise praise. Baby girl was having an exceptional moment one night, heavily over-tired, and pretty much had a breakdown as I tried to take her to the toilets, which resulted in me almost having a breakdown. One lovely waitress tried to help me settle her, and calm my nerves amidst other diners eye-ing us off suspiciously, and then when we were in the bathroom, that same waitress went to Hubbie and told him to let me know “not to worry. We are a family restaurant, we have kids, we understand.”

When he told me that, I honestly started to cry.

Because so often wait staff, store people, and just generally a lot of the population that have no kids, or have long passed that stage and forgotten how difficult it is, will turn up their nose at you for even taking your child out, let alone when they’ve had enough and scream blue murder at the top of their lungs. So for this waitress to go up to Hubbie and say what she did, was like an Angel singing the most beautiful hymn.

She then continued to be accommodating that night, by giving baby girl one of her own child’s toys to play with, and even another waitress was especially kind to us. It was like, they knew…

…that kids WILL act like kids. Funny huh? This place jumped up high in my books after that night, and eternally it will now be a regular fave. Well done guys.

So with all that said, I will definitely go back again, not only because they were so especially kind and understanding to us and baby girl, but also to finish off my ‘to-do at Kirks’ checklist:

Drink wine in their outdoor section taking in the view

Have brekkie in their outdoor section taking in the view

Have coffee in their outdoor section taking in the view

Did I mention taking in the view?

Basically… do not shirk a visit, to Kirks.

Kirks on the Esplanade Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brisket District

District North Cafe
678 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds

(Visited September ’16)

Spring and sunshine. That was the mix and the fresh smell in the air as baby girl and I headed to Moonee Ponds on a Saturday at the onset of September.

A few weeks earlier we had organised for a little catch up – some of the ‘gang’ with our kiddies. As it was, one of the Mums left hers at home (lucky thing) while myself and another friend had our scallywags accompany us.

District North is an expansive, neutral-coloured, clean space. Seating is aplenty, but still, being in a busy eating precinct on a sunny Saturday morning, you can never be too sure. We had booked ahead, and got a booth location up against the wall.

Once the kids were both seated, they fortunately received this:

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Thank God for colouring pencils. Well, it kept them busy for all of 46 seconds.

Anyway, we very quickly ordered, rushing the kids’ meals. It was a busy place, and definitely one that your child’s voice would get lost in the crowd – this is good. However kids being kids, we just didn’t want to test them, 11:30am and all.

Baby girl got the kids serving of pancakes with ice cream

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While I got the Bloody Brisket Benedict – Dr Marty’s crumpets, slow-cooked beef brisket, poached eggs, bloody mary hollandaise

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Now to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really understand what I was ordering. I kind of did, but somehow in amongst keeping baby girl in line and handing over pencil after pencil, and trying to keep her hands from taking the trucks out of her opponent’s (my friend’s son’s) hand, I kind of missed the ‘slow-cooked beef brisket’ part of the description, and thought Brisket was just, well, sauce or something.

Shame shame shame.

Anyway, I now know what brisket is. And it was delicious. When I received it I was initially a bit “okaayyy.” I’m not huge on meaty dishes, only because of how fussy I am when I eat it. I don’t trust many to give me clean pieces of meat that have no icky bits in them. Even Hubbie was surprised to later hear that I’d had ‘brisket.’

“No, but it was good!”

And it was. The meat was super soft, there was a lot of it, but because of its shredded properties it all kind of melted in the mouth. I didn’t even find it all that overpowering, and it helped me to make the decision months later, to choose the brekkie brisket meal over at The Winey Cow in Mornington (post coming soon).

The eggs were fantastically poached, the bread was good, having gotten nice and soft under all that brisket and egg, and the hollandaise had definite kick… I would never have normally ordered a meat brekkie dish, but I was so glad I hadn’t read it properly, otherwise I never would have tried. Delish!

My friend, who had already been there with her son, had only gotten him one pancake on his own plate – and now I could see why. The pancakes were huge, and though baby girl had a very good crack at them, she didn’t finish them all. They were of a very good portion.

Now pumped up with much-needed fuel, we immediately ordered coffees:

Babycino and cappuccino for baby girl and I

My cap was very smooth, something I half-expected having already experienced this well-run operation of eatery. And baby girl, well… when doesn’t she like her babycinos?

After a couple of toilet breaks, a short sitting outside on the small patio, and the kids finding the bucket of chalk to draw on the blackboard wall opposite the bathrooms, we went to pay, ogling the desserts up at the counter, but promising ourselves we would be back for those… another time.

Food: 9/10. Tasty, generous, and inventive. Why, bloody Mary hollandaise? Why not?!

Coffee: 8/10. Smooth and pleasing.

Ambience: Busy and bustling, not necessarily loud, but there were many people about on that Saturday morning.

People: There were lots of friends and couples meeting for brunch, but then there was a decent dose of family types about as well, like the couple who came to sit beside us with their under 10s son and daughter, making me all jelly as their kids were just sitting there… reading the menu… like they didn’t have to do anything to entertain their kids. What?!

Staff: Friendly, but busy too so we didn’t really get a chance to get personal.

Price: I shouted one friend for a past favour, and the other gave me cash so I could pay with my card, so the individual total I was unclear on… but I believe it was about $80ish, for 3 brunch meals, 2 kids meals, and a few coffees? On par for that area.

Advice: Definitely book ahead if going in ‘prime’ time. Head over earlier too, just because you will need a bit of time to find parking on or off the busy Mt Alexander Road. If you have toddlers in tow, be mindful, the meals are generous. And don’t shy away from the Brisket!

In a nutshell: The food and coffee were fantastic. The venue itself, with its hipster pulled-back palette, is nothing inventive or inspiring to me, so in that regard it was lacking some character. I would definitely go back for the menu, but I’ve seen that kind of café and accompanying atmosphere around many times before. Nonetheless, if you are local to this area, you should check it out, that I recommend.

I would go there more often myself, if it were in my beach-side District…

District North Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Perspective

19 degrees in Winter… “Ahh nice, bring it on Spring.”

19 degrees in Summer… “What the?! What is this stupid excuse of a season?”

 

Waking up healthy… “Eh, another day.”

Waking up sick… “I can’t wait to feel good again.”

 

Dealing with a whinging baby… “Stop crying! You are so annoying, I can’t handle it!”

A childless woman wanting a baby, watching a whinging baby… “What I would give to hold one of my own…”

 

Going into work… “I hate work.”

Not having a job to go to… “My work wasn’t too bad.”

 

Feeling overwhelmed by food after a banquet sitting… “I couldn’t eat another thing!”

A starving child in a third-world country feeling overwhelmed by the lack of food… “If only I could find a crumb.”

 

These are trivialities, first world-problems, serious problems, and for us privileged, most are perspective.

Getting consumed by the nonsense of everyday life is both easy yet unnecessary, and can be overcome when you ask yourself “Is there worse out there? How bad is this scenario?”

There are many, many serious problems and issues out in the world. But how much easier would it be to deal with those things when we removed the silly nonsense from everyday life, enjoyed more of what’s around us, and appreciated what we have?

Showing gratitude for simple things every day, is a very easy way to turn your perspective around, and bring more joy, more happiness, more abundance, and generally more of what you want, into your life EVERY DAY. I know this, because earlier this year I started my own online gratitude journey… inspired by a car crash.

If you would like to check it out, or find some inspiration for your own journey, or you just want to see how I can possibly be grateful that I went back to work after time off (my most recent post), you can click here.

If you are reading this, that means you have survived every single bad thing that has ever happened in your life. Wow, are you a superhero?!

Remember, SMILE. It’s all good 🙂

Toyboxes and Happiness Beans

Bean Counter Café
15 Railway Place Fairfield

That Wednesday lunch was catch-up for me, baby girl and bestie, once again in Fairfield. I had wanted to go there because of the kid-friendly tags associated with the café positioned off the main road, and with mentions of books and toys, (and change table – hey you need to be prepared) I thought it would be a pleasing experience for all.

Bean Counter Café is positioned on the corner of a leafy tree-lined suburban street, opposite Fairfield train station, with seating both out the front and inside, as well as further seating out the back of the café, which I was to learn about later. It is a cool and cosy place, with a bit of Fairfield funk. Bestie already had a table inside the cafe right by the door, and with the addition of high chair we were all set.

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The woman making coffees and our waiter serving us were both immediately very friendly to baby girl and us adults, making me surer of our decision to go there. The worst thing is going to a place where you feel your child will be despised for their excited squeals, but here it seemed they were almost expecting it.

We ordered fairly soon after, and I was impressed when without mentioning it, our waiter asked me if I wanted baby girl’s toastie delivered earlier before our lunches. This guy knows. Tick.

Her H.C.T Toastie – Ham Cheese and Tomato toasted sandwich came fairly early.

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She ate most of it in dribs and drabs, as toddlers do, eating a lot, and then none, and then slowly having more in distracted moments while I put it in her mouth.

A fair wait later, we received our meals.

I had the Zucchini Corn and Haloumi Fritters – topped with blanched spinach, fresh avocado, a poached egg and finished with tomato salsa

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And bestie had the Smashed Avocado and Feta – two slices of sourdough toast with avocado mash and sprinkled with feta, topped with sunflower pumpkin and linseeds, served with grilled cherry tomatoes and asparagus

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Now, both our lunches were from the brekkie menu, which we had learned was available all day – tick. However I felt (and bestie even agreed) that it took a tad long to receive our meals… granted it was the school holidays, however we had ordered about 1pm, what you would imagine to be after the lunchtime rush, and though there were
people about it wasn’t really packed.

However, despite the wait, the food was delicious. I omitted avocado for mine because my stomach sadly does not do avocado anymore. My poached egg was done so perfectly and oozing the yellow yolk, the fritters were flavoursome, and the salsa gave it that much needed kick to complement the other earthier flavours. The presentation was amazing, and all in all I loved it.

I know bestie loved hers, as she often frequents the place with her hubbie. Tick.

Soon after we decided to get some coffees and a babycino of course.

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What I loved about the babycino we received was it came in a kind of rubber-type of cup, and I imagine the people who own this place know kids can throw things, which kind of horrifies me to think they’ve had cups of frothed milk flung far and wide from across the café, but having a toddler, I should know better and accept it as a reality. My hand continuously hovers above hers as she gulps it down. All was delicious, however the coffee drinking was halted when the lady making coffees saw baby girl starting to get impatient with us slow-drinking coffee girls, and suggested the back area for baby girl to play with. What? There was a kids ‘area?’ All I had seen thus far was a little corner by the front door that had worn out books and scribbly things, alongside brand new packets of mini colouring books that you could buy brand new (clever people). She helped us move outside, and it was here that I went ‘ahhh, this is where the kid-friendly tag comes from.’

Cafes can sport change tables, and waiters who know how to talk to your baby, and coffee making like-minded Mums who also have a toddler just younger than yours, but when a café has this

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It REALLY is a kid-friendly café.

That chair actually opened up to an empty space underneath, which I’m sure is where the toys strewn out alongside it on the table usually live when visiting children haven’t unearthed the contents. Baby girl happily joined in with some big kids in the toy excavation hunt, while bestie and I chatted away.

It’s a great outdoor area. It was a tad cold on that day, and even though it’s covered out there the wind still got its hooks into all of us. Coffee lady had turned on the nearby heater, though with the icy wind it didn’t do much, and suggested we use the handy throws they have on supply.

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Great idea.

It’s a beautiful space, probably much more enjoyable on a warmer day. There’s a small water fountain against the wall, cute mosaic tables and chairs, and a quote about coffee, and let’s face it who can have too much coffee quotes? Not me.

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Once baby girl had had enough of running around out there (defined by me who knows her best) we up and paid and left.

Food: 8/10. The wait was long, but the food was worth it. Great presentation, equally great flavours.

Coffee: 7/10. The coffee drinking experience was stalled when we moved outside, so it was a bit cooler by the time I got to it again, but all in the name of keeping baby girl busy, which is the most important thing really (even after coffee, I know).

Ambience: Pretty chilled there on the corner of a suburban street.

People: I’d say fairly confidently a good dose of locals and those who are kind of local. There were a few fams there as it was the school holidays, friends meeting for lunch and a lot of leisurely ladies.

Staff: Really lovely from the beginning, welcoming and friendly to baby girl and I, and engaging and helpful too.

Price: For our three lunches and 3 drinks, the tally was $50 ish, which I think was spot on for what we got, and the area we were in.

Advice: If you have kids, go straight out the back with them, rain hail or shine. Just come equipped, with jackets and scarves and beanies (which shouldn’t be so much a problem now as we’re in the midst of a Spring heatwave) so that kids and adults alike stay warm while adults enjoy their food and drink in peace. Because we all need peace.

In a nutshell: I would definitely come here again, they had some very interesting menu options and a wide variety too, including some spectacular sounding shakes which sounded more dessert than liquid! Knowing the outdoor area caters for baby girl is a huge drawcard for me, knowing that both she and I would be happy on return. And any place with the suggestion of coffee in their café name just reeks cool, don’t you think?

Bean Counter Cafe Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spring on over to (glorious!) Panton’s

Panton Hill Vineyard and Winery
145 Manuka Road Panton Hill

Visiting a winery had been an event-in-waiting for over three years. Before we had fallen pregnant with baby girl, I had been desperate to go to one and quite honestly, get nicely plastered before officially getting off the alcohol wagon for my lonngggg stop-over to responsible-parentsville. We had managed to stop at one, but it hadn’t really fulfilled my winery desires: there had not been a menu available on the day we visited, and though we sampled some wines and did take a bottle home, I had really wanted the full winery experience: food, wine, sitting in the splendid sunshine, ALL OF IT.

I’m an elephant, and I don’t forget. These unfulfilled experiences stay in my mind until the mother-fuckers are ticked off my anal to-do-in-life list.

I don’t even know how we came to the idea though – I think it went something like ‘this Sunday is going to be super awesome weather/this Sunday we are free/what can we do on such a nice day/let’s eat out…. Winery!’

Yes something like that.

So, on the first super amazing Spring Day of September, we headed over to Panton Hill Vineyard and Winery to make my winery dreams come true.

Why Panton’s? Honestly, I was looking at wineries close to our vicinity of town. This one was a 30 minute drive, and compared with wineries of similar distance as well as neighbouring town wineries, this one had a menu on weekends and looked really lovely. The website mentioned something about blending Australian and European surrounds, and I immediately went ‘ding! sold.’

I called them on a Thursday to see if I had to book in advance (if you go somewhere with your child and you don’t book beforehand, you’re uber-confident as well as playing roulette with some gangster Murphy’s Law fairies) and when no one answered I left a message revealing our Sunday intentions.

That night I got a call back, advising that yes, we needed to book, especially as it was going to be a gloriously sunny day. The lady I spoke to was lovely and booked us for 1pm.

Come amazing Sunday lunch, and here Hubbie, baby girl and I are, driving through Eltham and then Diamond Creek, via winding roads and greenery in all directions to finally make our way to a gravel-y, slow, long, driveway leading to Panton’s. The first car park we came across was full, but Hubbie spotted a sign alluding to more spaces behind the building, and so he followed it to find it was so.

After walking into one of the buildings, where there was a private party at one end, and wine tastings up the other, there followed a bit of confusion. There were two nearby buildings, one opposite the one we were in, and one further along the trail, but those two I didn’t see people coming in and out of. Then there was the outside seated area besides this building, with some shaded tables and some next to unopen umbrellas. I had booked for 1pm, but where was the person to seat us? Not to come across all high-brow with my demand of being seated, but as I had been told we were required to book, with the time of 1pm given, it was almost expected that there would be a little reserved sign on a table somewhere with someone waiting to say “Hi Smikg, your table awaits.”

Nope.

I patiently waited behind a couple tasting wines to ask the older gentleman (he appeared to be the only one representing the property around) that we had arrived for lunch and didn’t know where to sit. He said “wherever you like,” and proceeded to point out all the areas we could sit. We headed outside, because we’d just come out of Winter and all.

Here too we hung out for a while. We soon realised there were numbers on other tables (the kind you get when you order so when you sit down the wait staff can find you), but again, no wait staff.

Wait! No, then they appeared. We managed to somewhat successfully flag one young lad down who informed us, once we’d explained our situation (we want food and drink please give it to us) that we were to order and pay inside the building with the gentleman who had been handing out wine tastings. Apparently there was a menu there. Alright then, and back I went. I felt a bit like a see-saw by this stage, but the sun was too damn bright to darken my mood.

I ordered some food and drink, before Hubbie went in to do the same while I now did the babysitting duties, making sure baby girl didn’t throw too many rocks into the nearby fountain and what not. She was having a ball, and usually distractions while we’re out and about, especially when dining, are heavily appreciated, however picking up rocks and throwing them into a pool of water, didn’t seem like it would be heavily appreciated by others. So containing her insane excitement at the task was not-so-fun.

But there was a dog! This was very exciting for baby girl, but we couldn’t let her just wander after it and grab at it, and at the same time, though this sweet dog did seem very hungry, sitting at our feet (and everyone else’s) hoping to be fed, its name tag informed us ‘do not feed the dog!’ Ok then.

We also had the issue of the sun. I know, I know us Melburnians, we whinge all the time “it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too windy, it’s too still now I can’t breathe, it’s just too normal can we have all 4 seasons in one day again?” Anyway, yes we were rapt it was an amazingly beautiful day, and I knew so many people who were out and about and planning so many extraordinary things for this fine Spring day. It was the first one in a LONG time, which my facebook feed also gave testament too at the sheer volume of out-and-about posts that featured that day from almost EVERYONE. However, it was still, it was hot, and sitting under the sun without sunscreen (not used to the fear of not-being white yet so early into Spring) was intense, and then of course, was our sweet baby girl, who we protect like a magpie protects its young swooping down on unsuspecting passersby who hold no intention of malice, just because they are near this time of year. Her precious skin is not for the sun. Our umbrella though, seemed very hard to manoeuver, and it was only when a certain lady came out that I went ‘ahhhh.’

Boss lady. Because she was, it was so damn apparent.

She immediately came to us, knowing we needed it lifted without even asking. She moved through the tables, checking on people, getting things, talking to the suddenly present waiters about what to do. And then we had shade.

And then not long after that, food too:

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We had gotten a few things to share, along with a VB for Hubbie and a glass of Verdelho for me. The menu was primarily pizza, and even the specials that day included lamb on a pizza. It was a fairly casual menu, but still, I didn’t care. There was food, there was alcohol, and there was sun.

We shared the Potato pizza, Classico pizza and Cheese and Spinach Burek. What I had found humorous was when I had asked the man how large the burek was, and he proceeded to give me hand configurations adding that a Turkish man on premises made it. Dude, I know what burek is, my family makes it. That’s like describing to Willy Wonka what chocolate is. And his pronunciation of it was gold. He and his missus may have had accents, but that didn’t allow for the correct pronounciation of it. (Say bu-rek. Pronounce bu, not drawn-out ‘boo,’ but a short ‘bu,’ followed by ‘rek,’ rhyming with ‘neck,’ but the r is short as well, the r Europeans sound out, a bit of a rolling r. Anyway).

I now know that that ‘dude’ goes by the name of Teunis and boss lady, his wife, by Dorothy. I’m not psychic, their website says so. He may not know his burek, but he sure as hell knows his land, and his wine, having purchased that block of land in the ‘70s, transforming it single-handedly into what it is today. When you see the property, you know what an incredible achievement that is. I have such respect for individuals who turn nothing into something unique and spectacular, and Panton Winery sure fits that bill.

The classico pizza had salami, tomatoes, olives and cheese, with the addition of chilli. Hubbie, who had the majority of this one, said he couldn’t really taste the chilli, but still, he ate it all. I had most of the potato pizza, and its combination of rosemary, potatoes, Spanish onion and cheese is always a winner. We all shared the burek which was not served as a loaf as previously indicated (!) but cut up into tiny pieces, all the better as we all nibbled on it and easily fed baby girl pieces too. There were some marinated olives and mushrooms on the side too, and together we finished it all.

Hubbie thought it was fairly standard, however I loved it. Yes the menu was basic, but for me it was more the experience of the setting, wine and food together. Also what was perhaps slightly affecting him was baby girl’s inability to sit down and listen. We did the usual taking turns eating while the other watched her, and when it was my turn to keep her busy while he ate, she and I walked around the grounds while I took some photos of the surrounding bushlands, vineyard, and the picturesque buildings.

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It was getting peaking hot, and with it baby girl’s irritability was cranking up a notch. Getting tired, we didn’t want to push her, but before we left, there was just one thing left to do.

Hubbie watched her while I disappeared here for 20 minutes.

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At first Teunis was meant to give me some wine options, but he got busy and Dorothy stepped in. I had 6 wine taste testings, some red, some white, while two of them I tried decanted. She was asking me if I could taste the difference between the decanted and the standard, and you know, I could, but also, by then we were onto the 5th taste test and it all tasted fine by then. Then she tried to sell me a decanter, and that tipsy side of me was loose, very loose, and very easily persuaded, and Dorothy probably knows to try to sell the decanter on the 5th taste-testing rather than the first, but for some reason this narration kicks in when I start drinking, and the narrator was telling me ‘you know you’re well on your way, don’t just buy something for the sake of it.’

Fortunately for me, the narrator in my mind won out again and I didn’t make a flimsy purchase. I know her decanters were cheaper, but I think I’ll wait and buy a pretty one. Loved the tutorial on why you decanter though, it was very informative.

Anyway, from all of that I walked out with this

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All smiling into the sunlight and whispering to Hubbie as I approached “I just had 6 wine tastings and I’m drunk.”

Yep. Life of a Mum.

We left after that, relieved that baby girl was falling asleep in the car, with sweet memories of rolling hills and wine and mispronounced burek.

Food: 7/10. Yes it was a standard menu, but points for the fresh ingredients (I assume the rosemary we were picking from the shrub with baby girl was used for my potato pizza – but shhh!)

Coffee: N/A. We were really close to ordering it, but Hubbie just couldn’t take the heat (weak) and baby girl’s cheeky antics anymore so we thought we best not to push our stay.

Ambience: Very relaxed. Beautiful. Serene. Amazing surrounds. The buildings, reminiscent of something you may see in Tuscany, transport you to another place and make you feel like you are far, far away, rather than just 30 minutes from home.

People: I was surprised and relieved that we weren’t the only ones with cheeky toddlers. A big family was there, mostly though there were couples and older couples. Also that big party inside the wine-tasting building that was going through the bottles (and so they should).

Staff: I hate to say based on our lovely experience, but kind of not present at first. I put this down not to unwillingness to work or help the guests, but rather the demands placed on them by the people visiting and superb weather. Meaning, they were understaffed. Otherwise they seemed ok, but didn’t hang around to talk. Both owners were chatty, but due to the volume of people they also seemed rushed.

Price: We spent under $60 (and that wasn’t including my approximately $30 bottle of pinot noir), that included the two pizzas and burek all for $15 each, and then there was my white wine and Hubbie’s beer at about $6 each. Perhaps, a bit overpriced for pizza, but I get it, you’re paying for the surrounds, as well as the wine-tastings (how else are they going to justify giving each person 6 different wine-tastings?)

Advice: Go on a gloriously sunny day (have I said gloriously enough in this post yet?!), on the weekend, so you can enjoy both wine and food. Pay and order in the building where all the wines are lined up, and then sit ‘wherever you like.’ And just, enjoy 🙂

In a nutshell: I would definitely come back to this place. Taking baby girl with us, I’d probably go when we have other friends and their kids with us so she could play with them, rather than with the water fountain. Or I could even go as a brunch/lunch option when just meeting up with the girls only. It’s the right place for a relaxing gasbag. And a coffee too, must do that next time I’m there.

They have the right ingredients of setting, scenery, wine and food, but a little work needs to go into welcoming the guests and setting them up properly on arrival so they’re not left wandering the grounds, hungry and thirsty. All in all, an amazing find that I can’t wait to revisit.

To-do-in-life List:

Visit winery and drink and eat on sunny day.
Kiss in the rain.
Watch the sunrise come up while watching from a peak/hill.
See the Aurora Borealis.
See Madonna in concert – soon.
Get published.

Panton Hill Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato