My appetite is returning. Over the last 3 weeks there has been a string of annoying internal and external events. I slipped getting into the bath, jarring my spine, which spiralled into a day of pain. The accident though relatively minor spawned 2 deep bruises, the second of which is still faintly visible. I think it caused some minor shock. I certainly was shaken and by the next day my immune system had plummeted heralding a triple phased weird virus. For someone who lives a very healthy life this has all been extremely annoying. Lethargy has been a constant companion through this whole journey, not aided by the type of insomnia that visits when you get over tired. The, hopefully, final phase has been almost a week of stomach upsets, pain and nausea. For someone who loves eating, being without desire for food has been novel, but rather boring.
In the meantime, phase 2 of the renovating kicked in. Being 1 room down (a quarter of my entire house) for the last fortnight. The day after the room number 1 to be painted was cleared out – squeezing my study and storage room into the remaining bedroom and lounge, my partner and chief painter got sick too. It has been a comedy of errors, escalating in his 3 elderly relatives visiting for that time, so that some days the house looked a little like a geriatric day care centre. What should have taken 5 days to prepare and paint rolled into 14, even with the assistance of a very able relative. Yesterday, room 1 was finally completed, it remains gutted, awaiting the carpet to be cleaned tomorrow. Later today, we have the challenge of clearing the second room, with the first not being unable to be set up til the flooring is clean and dry. It is going to be an interesting few days.
But first celebrations. For a belated birthday treat we headed to the country for a lunch at my favourite winter restaurant. I have blogged before about the delightful Healesville Hotel. Healesville is a small town, nestled in the hills, about 75 minutes drive from the city. The dinning room is warmed by a roaring fire, which makes it such an appealing spot on a chilly day.
The food is not country fare. This is the best of Melbourne dining transplanted to the rural fringe. I’d hazard a guess that every one of the avid guests came from out of town. However almost all the produce is local .
The lunch began with drinks. A robust dark beer and some aperitifs. Some had entrees. There was a creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup, Tasmanian oysters and Yarra Valley salmon, cured then slightly grilled. The salmon came up as a favourite on the table. It tasted of fennel and lemon.
The menu is quite small, a handful of dishes and a couple of specials. Always a vegetarian and a fish meal. The meat ranged through rabbit, duck, chicken and 2 beef dishes. Although the food is not simple, it seems to combine original ingredients without being too rich. Though the blue cheese polenta that accompanied the huge chunk of roasted rib eye was pronounced too over powering by those who tried it. I settled for kingfish, which was grilled, a little more cooked than I would have liked, but still very tasty. It was the most modestly sized of the mains, 2 small pieces of fish with a little pan fried silverbeet and some crispy chunks of potato. This serving size just right for someone facing a real meal for the first time in a week. The vegetarian risotto and carnivorous dishes were generous. The steaks looked a good 3 times larger than a recommended serve of protein.
Having eaten so conservatively, I found there was just enough room in my “dessert stomach” to contemplate sweets. I am not big on puddings, but have a weakness for fruit and pastry and as always, the Healesville Hotel didn’t let me down. I wish I had the recipe for the baked apples. Sadly I can’t remember what they were stuffed with, marinated dried fruits of some kind. A new twist on a classic home cooked dish. It was spectacular and perfect with a little calvados as the menu suggested. There was a crispy fried citron ravioli that I was disappointed no one tried, or the pear tart that sounded wonderful. The others munched Yarra cheeses, a fig linzertorte and a chocolate crème brulee.
There was nothing left on the plates.
A slow, 3 hour lunch with good company is a special thing. We live in such a busy world where too often eating is done hastily. Such a meal at night often begins too late, when my palate is jaded by a long day and a multi-coursed meal is too large to digest. I’m not a night creature, sadly. But it means I am someone who enjoys breakfast (how I pity those who skip one of the best meals of the day) but will fast in the morning to truly enjoy such a spectacular lunch.
So, here’s to what I dearly hope is the return of my appetite, a speedy completion of the last 2 spaces to be painted and to a long lunch with friends in my new kitchen at the end of it all.
Now, I am going to scurry off and search baked apple recipes, something I hadn’t eaten since childhood. I look forward to beginning a winter romance with baked, poached and other warm fruit dishes.